A goal of planning the NYU Abu Dhabi campus on Saadiyat Island was to foster interaction between the disciplines. On typical campuses, each academic discipline has its own departmental building or headquarters, and separate buildings tend to encourage self-containment. The strategy at the Saadiyat campus is to combine, rather than separate.

Saadiyat Campus Central Plaza with Students

Most of the NYUAD faculty offices are distributed horizontally across the campus on the first floor. This horizontal distribution advances connectivity. Tall elevator buildings are like layer cakes: it is a challenge to break through the floor plates to draw people on different floors together. To overcome this forced separation, the trend in vertical academic buildings is to have large stairs, wide ramps, or atriums that create visual and physical connections across floors. NYU Shanghai’s new building in Pudong features an inviting, open staircase. Other examples of this approach in New York City include the New School building, which just opened on Fifth Avenue and 14th Street; Barnard College’s student center (the Diana Center), and the Newman Vertical Campus of Baruch College.

By contrast, the NYUAD faculty offices and classrooms are located for the most part on the same floor in connecting buildings.

The campus has six academic buildings. Two are defined by their specialized facilities. The Experimental Research Building, also known as Building C1, has labs and hosts the Biology, Chemistry, and Engineering faculty who work in those labs. Building C3 — the Arts Center — house the faculty in the studio arts: Film, Interactive Media Technology, Music, Theater, and Visual Arts.

The four other academic buildings (A1, A2, A5 and A6) are like mixing bowls. To foster interaction, they have large floor plates, the faculty offices are on the same level, and the buildings are linked. The layout promotes contact: you will see people, become curious about what they are doing, bump into colleagues, and have unexpected conversations. This design privileges connectivity over separation, transparency over walled enclosure. Current research suggests that open floor plans foster creativity and innovation by allowing for chance encounters and encouraging interaction. The architecture of NYUAD mobilizes this dynamic and the academic buildings create a framework for creative collaborations across fields.