Wasl Tower in Dubai: the supertall ceramic skyscraper that “breathes”

Written by Monks of Kieron, CNN

How to stand out next to the tallest building in the world?

This was the challenge of the Dutch architecture firm UNStudio when he was commissioned to build a new tower on Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed Road, directly across from the 828-meter Burj Khalifa.

But the client, the state developer Wasl, was not set in height, says UNStudio founder and chief architect Ben van Berkel.

The brief was for a “strong and sustainable concept”, he recalls, and for a building that connected to the local area.

Wasl Tower during its construction.

Wasl Tower during its construction. Credit: UNStudio

Wasl Tower will be complete in August 2021 and van Berkel is confident that it meets these requirements, as well as a distinctive appearance.

The $ 400m, 302-meter skyscraper employs a twisted and asymmetrical design inspired by the “opposite” pose commonly used in classical sculpture, intended to give a dynamic movement effect.

The building will also feature one of the world’s tallest ceramic facades, made of clay-based materials, with a fin-overlaid coating of fin-shaped tiles. These are designed for energy efficiency and comfort, providing shade from Dubai’s strong heat which reduces the need for air conditioning and deflecting light into the interior, according to the architects.

Advantages of ceramic materials

Ceramic materials also offer advantages outside the building, says van Berkel. While the glass facades reflect the heat loads in the surrounding area, with disastrous effects inside some cases – ceramic stone “protects the heat load entering the building and reduces the heat load in the urban areas around the building”.

The architect has other reasons to favor ceramics, which according to him can be stronger than concrete and malleable enough to allow “fantastically innovative” forms.

The design offers another surprising feature. The shape and composition of the ceramic fins reflect the sunlight in rhythmic patterns to give the appearance of a building that breathes, say the architects. A similar effect will be produced at night by the LED lights behind the facade.

The design of the tower is inspired by the

The design of the tower is inspired by the “opposite” asymmetrical pose commonly used in classical sculpture. Credit: Metanodes and Plompmozes

The “vertical avenue” of the Wasl Tower

In addition to the ceramic, Wasl Tower will also show innovation in the form of a “vertical driveway” that runs the full height of the building. This “open seam” effect is created by a “stacking of external balconies, which form a green vein along the outline of the building”.

The tower will be occupied by a branch of the Mandarin Oriental luxury hotel chain, as well as offices, private apartments and rooftop pools. A pedestrian bridge will connect the building to Burj Khalifa metro station.

The connection to public transport infrastructure was in part a response to the customer’s request for a building that would attract long-term residents, says van Berkel.

“If you have too many short-lived visitors, it can empty a city’s social glue: people leave city centers and can’t really use cafes and restaurants,” he says. “The areas around transportation systems need life with the right programs where people see each other and stay in the area.”


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