A structure with a dark facade is undoubtedly showcased no better than in Arabian desert sand and clear skies. Yet, a dark facade can still be boldly mesmerizing regardless of the country. This is true to Abu Dhabi’s newly launched Berklee College of Music. A swooping stainless steel-clad building, it naturally produces an unapologetic dark facade but always invites a closer look to applaud its details. Inspired by the Emirates’ vast rolling sand dunes, Norman Foster Architects never fails to amaze us with design concepts that celebrates an elemental part of Emirati Culture.

The sand dune-like structure was initially designed for the 2010 Shanghai Expo. It was intended to be dismantled easily and relocated. Yet, it was one of the most prominent structures built for the expo at the time. After the expo closed, it occasionally served as a spillover for Abu Dhabi art events. Thus, the opening of Berklee College of Arts as its permanent tenant will not only be an addition to the city’s immensely growing global hub for arts, culture and education. But will also partake in the rich tradition of Arabic music and the advancement of performing arts.

Located at Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi’s center for tourism for heritage and cultural projects, the structure is an excellent addition to the scene. The freely shaped roof and skylights arch into the dunes combine different materials. “The complex shell forms, whose slopes rose to a peak of 20 meters, were cloaked in stainless-steel cladding configured on a 2-metre triangulated grid.”

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Linder Group, who was commissioned to realize the entire structure envelope, said that silver glazed porcelain tiles were used in the roof’s outer layer with bios self-cleaning treatment. Each tile, attached by hand, has a different angle to the sun to achieve the unique pattern. Moreover, the glasses were deformed to reproduce a homogeneous and flowing 3D surface, making it astonishing inside and out.

The 3,900 sqm interior features state-of-the-art facilities and innovative rehearsal studios, practice rooms, tech labs, ensemble rooms and performance spaces. These cater to masterclasses, courses, ensembles, tech labs and workshops. Berklee is poised to offer the highest calibre of music and performing arts instruction to the Abu Dhabi community, the other emirates, and beyond. In addition, it will also provide several annual performances in collaboration with Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT), Abu Dhabi.

Berklee College of Music is an internationally renowned contemporary music and arts institution, with branches in Boston, New York, and Valencia, Spain. Their alumni have won 290 Grammy Awards, 19 Emmy Awards, 5 Tony Awards, and 5 Academy Awards. Having Berklee College of Music in Abu Dhabi will revive the sand dune-like Pavillon, with its outstanding architecture. This will also contribute to Abu Dhabi’s soft positioning as one of the most culturally diverse and historically rich parts of the world.

Photos via Berklee College of Music, Berklee Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi Confidential, and Abu Dhabi Culture

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