How to stand out beside the world’s tallest building?

That was the challenge facing Dutch architecture firm UNStudio when it received a commission to build a new tower on Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed Road, directly opposite the 828-meter Burj Khalifa.

But the client, state-owned developer Wasl, was not fixated on height, says UNStudio founder and principal architect Ben van Berkel.The brief was for a “strong, sustainable concept,” he recalls, and a building that would connect with the local area.

Wasl Tower will be complete in August 2021, and van Berkel is confident it delivers on those requirements, as well as a distinctive look.The $400m, 302-meter skyscraper employs a twisting, asymmetrical design inspired by the “contrapposto” pose commonly used in classical sculpture, intended to give an effect of dynamic motion.

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