Below dreaming paper turned into a state-of-the-art campus in downtown Baku in just 5 years. Taped several years ago, this video takes one on a tour of that campus inaugurated in September 2012.
Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy (ADA)
This paper is written for DREAMING purposes. Feel free to put down any dream that comes to your mind. This will try to describe a new site of ADA, provide initial facts about it and explain the vision behind it. It is written to initiate programming and master planning session with architects.
A building is not about aesthetic exterior looks only. How a space is designed inside that building is important. For it is that space, which will help foster the culture, spirit and environment of the school.
ADA is an academic institution based on student centered and Socratic pedagogy. Its mission is to build academic strength and intellectual potential. More than anything else, ADA thrives to cultivate new minds, new mentality and new generation of Azerbaijanis. These Azerbaijanis are creative, ambitious, and autonomous. They reason critically and think analytically. They are problem solvers. They learn from international faculty and study with international students to enrich their learning experience. It is about MINDS, stupid!
ADA will transform traditional teaching. It will foster new teaching methods, where lectures are replaced with intimate seminars, where students face each other versus staring at each other’s back, where you can see eyes and read facial expressions, where a professor is as equal as any student. A class is a board room, where each single student is an executive fully responsible for his/her uttering. And when that executive speaks, he or she is expected to offer solution versus speculate over a lengthy speech. A class is designed to enhance process and democracy. Everybody is equal inside a class, since all are judged by merits only.
At ADA, learning is not confined to seminar halls or auditoriums only. It continues everywhere, from staircases to study banquets and into fitness center. We defy sitting in auditoriums. We want Commons, Atrium, Coliseum, where dignitaries, professors, our peers will gather informally and speak out loud, where we will listen to them from balconies and staircases, speak back to them courageously and loudly, be it from our seats on the floor or from the top of the staircase. We want Socratic environment. We want to speak loudly and be heard among hundreds.
ADA is a culture where interaction and participation, teamwork and collaboration, and networking is encouraged. Our space is designed to avoid isolation and compartmentalization. It brings all of us together, makes sure we meet in corridors and staircases, and flow evenly and frequently. We don’t look for a Rector or a Dean, or a faculty. We find them among us and close to us. We want a SPACE, where we will pick up our coffee, walk to them, shake their hands, thank one professor for a vivid class of negotiations, complain about difficulties of calculus. Make that space bigger, please, so it is not congested, so we can rub shoulders with all 150 in one hour.
ADA is an intimate community with personalized attention. Study banquets, quiet rooms, lounges, love corners. It is where we are all one big family. Here, we sit close to each other, learn to tolerate foreign cultures and differences. But most of all, we learn to shift our attention to our own. We want to prove that it is quite possible for one Azerbaijani to respect another, listen and hear each other, worship one and rally around that one. We want to end “me too” competition. At ADA, every single one of us represents Azerbaijan at the United Nations General Assembly. It is one goal and objective we are being trained to serve.
ADA is a lifestyle where students come in the morning, but do not leave right after a class. They stay to study, eat, work out, and socialize together. It is a social hub. More so, it is a country club where future diplomats and executives are cultivated to work together, to make deals and to solve problems.
Library. This may be a stand-alone building. To be developed as both virtual and physical library. It will be the most substantial foreign language collection in the country. We will not selfishly keep this whole collection for ADA only. We want this as a “Library for all Azerbaijanis”. We want to share it with others. We also want them to come in and witness our lifestyle. We want them to want to be part of us. Design transcends perception of a traditional library. ADA library upholds a culture of research. But it is also a social hub. Here, you can search for a book, surf indexes, grab a cup of coffee, relax in a lounge, and find your love. You will graduate from ADA, but a piece of memory from this library will remain with you for good. And you will give back to ADA because in this particular library you either got inspired by Thomas Jefferson or met the love of your life. This library is a trademark of ADA. It fosters a lifestyle of learning and living together.
Commons. Atrium. Coliseum. A meeting place of all. It is not flat. It will wash away traditional perceptions. Tiers mean nothing more than mixing crowds, equality reins from the floor to the ceiling. A hub where we all come together. A spacious one. Gateway to a new world of ideas. Showcase of a new look at the world and our place in it. This is where we will enter the ADA first, where traffic will cross every single day for two years, where we will be taught, where we will have coffee with the Rector, where we will hear great minds of the world speaking to us, where we will speak to grow into principled leaders in action. Can we also have flat TVs over here to watch CNN, BBC and Bloomberg?
ADA Yard. Intimately large. Embrace. Footprint. It is here that we will experience the first emotional welcome to this institution of merits. It is here that we will graduate in the most memorable ceremony. ADA Yard will be designed as a landscape to remain a piece of memory for life.
Sustainable Design. With ADA, we are bringing a new product into Azerbaijan’s education and society at large. ADA will be a frontrunner of innovation. That said, it should also be designed as a sustainable institution. The most progressive demonstration of innovation and sustainability could be use of alternative sources of energy. The solution offered is a hybrid of geothermal, solar and wind energy.
ADA is being conceptualized as a public institution in a country which is a producer and exporter of oil and gas. Its primary niche is a program on Energy and Environment. We will teach Energy, but we want to teach it together with Environment. Just teaching is not enough. We want to also showcase publicly, benefit directly and share generously.
The school could be a pioneer in promoting alternative and environmentally friendly sources of energy in a country whose economic growth is propelled by production of fossil fuels. The impact of public and international perception would be tremendous. Not to mention the fact that ADA would open floodgates of innovative approach to future planning and diversification in a country of vast hydrocarbon resources. By implementing these technologies, ADA would significantly decrease its annual expenses for utilities.
No other person can be a better champion of this innovation than the current ADA Rector, who is a physicist by profession and the first champion of alternative energy in Azerbaijan.
This is where DREAMING ends. This document is now transferred to architects to design the most PRAGMATIC space possible.
In this paper, we dreamed of a first class environment for a first class citizen. We, then, got up and built that dream, brick by brick. We converted public's support to us into highly intelellectual, ethical and socially responsible citizens. And every year since then, we kept graduating many of those citizens. At the end of this video, I said something which has held firm since that first graduation: "You are graduating from ADA, but in my opinion, you will never graduate from an idea of ADA".
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