The Wasl tower with the world's tallest ceramic façade is under construction

Materials World magazine
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4 Mar 2020

The world’s tallest ceramic façade is under construction in Dubai, as part of a tower that is said to breathe in the desert heat.

The wasl Tower in Dubai is set to become the tallest structure featuring a ceramic façade, reaching 302m-high, once completed. The tower was designed by Amsterdam-based UNStudio in collaboration with engineering firm, Werner Sobek, for wasl LLC Asset Management Group.

Construction began in 2016 with completion set for 2021, when it will stand opposite the renowned 828m-tall Burj Khalifa.

When building in areas that experience extreme heat fluctuations, the construction materials play a crucial role. As such, clay ceramic was chosen for the façade in the form of low-tech glazed ceramic tiles or fins. The ceramic fins will provide shade for the building, as well as reflect light into the interior. According to the architect studio, to adapt to the local climate, the ceramic façade will provide a ‘natural cooling system through heat loss and shading techniques’ during the day. At night, the lighting system, which is located behind the ceramic fins, is programmed to ‘breathe with the rhythm of this 24-hour metropolis while providing a visual connection to the city’. Energy cube photovoltaic panels situated in the car park will power the lights.

As reported by CNN, UNStudio Founder and Principal Architect, Ben van Berkel, said using ceramics on the outside of a building offers benefits such as preventing heat reflecting off the structure and on to surrounding areas, as is common with glass façades. He said the ceramic layer ‘protects the heat load going into the building and reduces the heat load in urban areas around the building’.

Another benefit of the material is its strength and flexibility, which enables the construction of buildings with different shapes. The wasl Tower structure was inspired by contrapposto – a common composition technique in sculpture design with a focus on counterbalance.

‘As the project strongly relates to and interconnects with Dubai’s urban experience, the aim is to make a visit to The wasl Tower as attractive and contemporary as possible. As such, a dedicated concept of health, comfort and wellbeing throughout was developed for the building,’ said van Berkel.