Block 15: How Architectural Functionalism Boosts the Student Experience
To the untrained eye, a building is no more than a structure comprising of walls, windows, doors, and a roof. Those involved in the creation of buildings, though, would (rightfully) argue differently. Upon my first visit to Middlesex University Dubai’s recently acquired Block 15, I entered with the belief that institutional buildings were no more than buildings and left in marvel at the architectural functionalism and vivid interior design that lay before me.
Having previously housed the prime student avenue, Hub19, along with a handful of classrooms, Block 19’s facilities have been relocated to the augmented Block 15, adjacent to the central buildings of Blocks 16 and 17. Additionally, Block 15 conveniently platforms student support services like Campus Central, the Centre of Academic Success (CAS), and the Careers Hub. In conversation about the newly added facilities, Psychology with Counselling Skills student, Hiba Jahan, remarked that the accessibility of Block 15 is one of its best features, “[Everything] is right in front of you.”
Previously known as Hub19, the “Social Hub” will continue to feature its dance studio, student lounge, gaming room, recreational room, and silent study rooms. It also welcomes a well-furnished gym and other recreational facilities entirely at the disposal of the Middlesex Dubai student population.
Middlesex has always prioritized cultivating an enriching student experience; the inauguration of Block 15 reflects the university’s keen consideration of feedback, accounting for all the improvements students had suggested over past years and bringing them to fruition.
Beyond the general amenities of the building, RedBeat had the pleasure of being toured around the third floor of Block 15 and were offered insight into the thought process behind the design decisions and how feedback from students was implemented in the improvement of the facilities.
In response to student feedback over seating across campus, all of Block 15’s three floors are generously embellished with an array of couches and bean bags to accommodate the varying comfort requirements of students. The lighting and primary colour arrangements make the space feel contemporary and maintain its warm and welcoming ambience. This is attested by Nathan Bobby, a second-year Accounting and Finance student, “It’s so cosy. It feels like my second home.”
A sure crowd-pleaser, the Social Hub features numerous amenities centred around students’ leisure and downtime. Once you make it past security, you are atmospherically knocked by the bustle of the area. The entrance is occupied by four vintage arcade games, a foosball table, an air hockey table, and a “Eat, Sleep, Play, Repeat” mural, solidifying the 80s retro appeal of the nook.
Further in is the casual ‘Dunk Zone’ where students can try their luck in shooting some hoops.
Towards the right, there are plentiful seating arrangements ranging from couches to benches to bean bags. If the livelihood of the conversation begins to fizzle out, students can simply engage in a game of Connect Four, the materials for which readily adorn all seating areas. There is also a DJ table to rejuvenate the spirits of students through some upbeat tunes.
The primary purpose of the Social Hub is to provide students with a place to take a step back from rigorous academic life and have an entertaining time. “I used to only come to campus for class and go home right after, but now, I come here to also have fun and take cool pictures and TikToks”, Manal Haroon, a third-year PR, Branding and Advertising student, revealed.
“It’s better than just scrolling through social media. Instead, you can hang out with friends, share memories, and create new ones. It’s always fun here.”
Reminiscent of a cave, the Gaming Room basks in an abyss of darkness. The only light in the premises beams from the handful of gaming PCs and televisions. Gamers can lounge on ergonomic swivel chairs or bean bag gaming chairs and indulge in the assortment of games at their disposal. For PS4 enthusiasts, there are versions of FIFA, Call of Duty, Uncharted, and more. On the other end, we have Valorant, Counter Strike, Roblox, Fortnite, and others for our PC gamers. Students will need to book a slot a day prior through the QR codes displayed around the Social Hub to make use of the room’s facilities.
The music room is equipped with a high-quality keyboard, guitar, and drum set, along with amplifiers and speakers. In contrast to its Hub19 precursor, the music room has been made bigger and invites in more natural light. To utilize its features, students must be a part of the music club and book a slot at least a day before usage.
Home to games that don’t involve screen time, you can compete against friends or potential new ones in a game of foosball or billiards. Much like the gaming and music room, the games room must be booked at least a day prior to its use.
Built to accommodate all forms of rhythmic movement, the dance studio has witnessed an expansion in area. The studio is well-lit by artificial and natural lighting, all of which is masterfully reflected by a mirror wall that helps to open up the space. The dance studio’s functionality will extend to accommodating wellness sessions as the university hopes to call professionals to provide various workshops for students throughout the academic calendar. If not attending a wellness session, students must be a part of the dance club and register a day prior via the QR codes displayed in Block 15 to utilise the space.
Our fitness buffs can get their blood pumping at the aptly equipped gym. There are treadmills, a barbell set, stability balls, and more— the grind never stops. Fitness sessions are set to be organised by the university for students to attend. Some of these fitness sessions will also be exclusive to women only to ensure the highest level of comfort possible. The gym sessions can be booked on the website based on the fitness hub’s schedule.
The library shelves a multitude of academic and non-academic texts to satiate your literacy needs. Middlesex librarians are always open to help you find the resources you need or guide your research in the right direction. They even hold weekly online Skills Focus Workshops which you can register for here. Further into the library, you’ll find the Silent Study room. Its function is self-explanatory; students can come here to sit at desks and silently work or study.
The Study Hub was built with comfort and collaborative work in mind. There are a handful of computers for students to work on, along with desks, chairs, and bean bags. Students can lounge in a way that is suited to their personal liking and thus optimise their productive output. The Study Hub is open to use for all students.
Given the lifting of most COVID-19 restrictions and a transition back to life pre-pandemic, the advent of Block 15 promises new opportunities that students were deprived of for nearly two years. The Student Activities department has grand plans in store for making use of the utilities available on the third floor of Block 15 to hold many student-enriching activities and events. “Positive thinking [sic.] that it’s going to bring in new energy, new vibes,” Coach Sasa, Athletics coach at Middlesex University Dubai, says.
“Our club members will have a new environment and better conditions to practice in and work on their excellence.”