Proposed Building Looks Like A Giant Zipper

The winner of [AC-CA]’s latest contest plays with the tower shape to create a vertical campus for an architecture school.

Recent graduates Ali Chen and Evan Shieh have spun their architecture-school education into a creative new proposal for a unversity in Dubai: “Blue Tape,” a tower that looks like a giant zipper. This week, the plan won international architectural competition organizer [AC-CA]’s [DUBAI] Architecture School Tower contest.


The competition asked participants to design a vertical educational experience for an architecture school in Dubai. The proposals were completely theoretical, with no plans to build the winners, so participants were allowed to imagine their structures anywhere in the city. Shieh and Chen, who both graduated from the University of Southern California’s architecture program in 2012, chose to locate their tower next to American University in Dubai, just off the city’s marina and the Palm Jumeirah, one of the city’s artificial palm-tree-shaped islands.

The design was based on the concept of a pin-up space, where architectural students post their work up on the wall to be reviewed and critiqued. The tower’s facade is textured so that rooms on various floors extend farther out from base, giving them the appearance of sheets of paper tacked to a wall. “To us, the activity of the pin-up space [was] really felt to be the epicenter of our architectural education,” Chen told Co.Design over email. “These peer reviews with instructors and colleagues forced collaboration, review, competition, and critique, and was really vital to the way we came to learn architecture.”

The central column of the tower houses classrooms, workshops, an auditorium and library, event and gallery spaces and roof space. Studios are arranged around this central “spine.” Angular extensions expand sections of the building out from the tower’s central core horizontally, giving it its zipper-esque shape. Inside, a central atrium and plenty of glass give the tower the more open, connected feel of a university campus, rather than a collection of isolated floors–much like Tencent’s towered headquarters does for the office building. Yeah, I’d go to school here.

[H/T: designboom]

About the author

Shaunacy Ferro is a Brooklyn-based writer covering architecture, urban design and the sciences. She's on a lifelong quest for the perfect donut.