Aga Khan Academy,
This 1200-student residential school is located on a 20-acre site near the centre of Dhaka, Bangladesh. The school is part of a network of state of the art K12 schools, being established by His Highness the Aga Khan.
Through the Aga Khan Academies there are currently18 Academies planned in locations across Africa, the Middle East, Central and South Asia and Europe.
The Aga Khan Academies aim to support long-term national and regional development by providing an international standard of education and strong leadership experience to talented students. The students are selected based on merit, regardless of socioeconomic background, and will become future home-grown leaders. The Academies also strengthen national education systems by providing professional development and modelling best practices as centres of excellence.
The Academy is arranged around a central ‘Maidan’ community gathering space and sports field, linked by a continuous colonnade, and interspersed by landscape courtyards of varying character. The classical Masterplan layout is derived from our studies of the original Buddhist universities of the region.
The result is an architectural language which showcases intricate brickwork techniques set against ‘jali’ screen detailing as a contemporary interpretation of an important local tradition. The project incorporates the overarching Aga Khan Academies brief whilst integrating historic Bangladeshi customs in spatial arrangements.
This project is a collaboration between FCBStudios and Rafiq Azam of Shatotto in Dhaka
Geographical and Topographical Context
The site is located in the north-east of Dhaka city, in the heart of the world’s largest river delta, and in a district only recently reclaimed from land prone to flooding. With a population of 21 million in the Greater Dhaka area, this is the sixth most densely populated city in the world, and amongst the fastest growing at around 4.2% per annum. In this context, even land as challenging as this has become highly valuable, and the pace of semi-planned urbanisation around the site over the last two decades has been phenomenal.
Severe flooding has been a common problem historically. Major road and rail projects are underway, but traffic is a huge issue in the city, which ranked as the world’s 2nd most polluted capital in 2020 (with Bangladesh the most polluted country by weighted population average).
Dhaka lies more or less on the Tropic of Cancer, and has challenging conditions from a bioclimatic design point of view. They vary significantly throughout the year, and the climate is usually referred to as having six seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer, Monsoon, Autumn and Late Autumn
From mid-April to mid-October, high average temperatures and heavy rainfalls result in a hot and extremely humid climate. External conditions are outside normal comfort range during the day and mechanical conditioning is generally required to achieve comfortable internal conditions. The difference in temperature between day and night is typically only around 5°C, which limits the potential for night-time cooling.
The Aga Khan Academy project relates strongly to the following
UN Sustainable Development Goals:
The project supports the healthy lives and promotes the well-being of students and staff through a healthy school environment, sports and healthcare facilities on site. The Academy aims to share facilities with local communities.
Bioclimatic Design Principles
Solar Shading and Natural Daylight
The first priority was to reduce heat gains within the building to maximise the period of the year where natural ventilation could provide adequate free cooling. Acoustic constraints from traffic noise meant the conventional east-west block orientation was not possible in some areas, so to control solar gain while maintaining good internal daylight levels, the building façade and fenestration design had to be optimised – three key approaches were developed to this end:
The other key passive design strategy was to optimise the building form to allow airflow around habitable spaces and promote free cooling. School courts open to the south to ‘funnel’ prevailing winds through the classroom blocks. But wind direction varies through the seasons, so accommodation in the academic and residential buildings was subdivided into smaller blocks, perforating the buildings with breezeways to allow wind from a number of directions to drive air movement.
Sitting in the Ganges/Brahmaputra river delta, Dhaka has a longstanding problem with severe flooding during the rainy season. Municipal flood protection embankments and drainage channels are still in development, and the current risk of flooding on and around the Academy site is difficult to ascertain.