Inspired by a tree house and Sydney´s sandstone heritage, Architect Frank Gehry´s first project in Australia is a masterpiece in design.
When a mastermind like Frank Gehry designs a building it ought to be a masterpiece and this one´s no different. Probably 2015´s biggest landmark building inauguration - the new wing of the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) Business School is the architect´s first project in Australia and what a fine one at that!
Christened the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building in the honour of the namesake Chinese businessman, the building is a physical manifestation of the innovative thinking that underpins the teaching, learning and research undertaken by the Business School and UTS as a whole. The focus is on creating unique spaces to inspire a life - imbibe love for learning, enable completely new educational experiences and enrich UTS´s approach to research. Designed to encourage the sharing of ideas among students and staff alongside industry and community partners, the building is a work of art. Inspired by the idea of a tree house, Gehry describes this building design as ´a growing learning organism with many branches of thought, some robust and some ephemeral and delicate´. The aim was to create the main activity area around a single tree trunk, and make people contact each other through the branches that emerge from the Centre.
The building features a unique east-facing, sandstone-coloured, undulating brick façades that responds to Sydney´s sandstone heritage, while the large glass panels which comprise the west-facing façade reference the contemporary milieu. The undulating brickwork (with around 320,000 light-coloured custom-made bricks) and glass-panelled ´curtain wall´ make the building stand out from the rest. Achieving the fluid appearance of the brick¡work proved a technical feat that involved corbelling (stepping) individual bricks to articulate the building´s organic shape.
To encourage interaction, the building makes prominent use of stairways to move people around the building. The most striking of these is a polished stainless steel staircase, which lends a sculptural focal point to the main lobby and reflects the movement of both people and ideas. The staircase was manufactured by Queensland-based Urban Art Projects, shipped from China to Sydney in parts and assembled on site. Another eye-catching feature is a stairway made of Victorian ash, which wraps around an oval classroom on level 3, linking it to the student lounge on the floor above.
Designed to facilitate interaction and dialogue, the two tiered oval classrooms each seat 54 people. They have been constructed from around 150 large laminated timber beams, each weighing up to two tonne and the longest measuring 12 metres. Originating in New Zealand, the glue-laminated (glu-lam) radiata pine beams create a sculptural form within the ground-floor atrium void. The classrooms feature the world´s longest timber-concrete composite floor construction and the first in Australia. The oval classrooms provide an intimate environment with 360¦ engagement, encouraging dialogue between all. In fact, all teaching spaces are light-filled and have a wonderful connection to the city.
The Dr Chau Chak Wing Building was the first UTS building to be awarded a 5 Star Green Star Design rating certified by the Green Building Council of Australia. Sustainability has been considered in the choice of construction materials, interior furnishings, sustainable timber and energy-efficient air-conditioning. A 20,000-litre tank on the roof harvests rainwater for use in toilets and for irrigation, reducing potable water use. Fire system test water is also collected and recycled. In the basement, 160 bicycle parking spaces, lockers, changing areas and showers are provided to encourage students and staff to cycle to class and work.
Lighting is a key feature throughout this Wing. Acrylic cloud-shaped lights are prominent on the lower public levels of the building, notably above the level 2 café counter and in the student lounge. On the upper levels, the cloud lighting takes on a papery texture and creates a striking point of interest in the staff kitchen and in the Dean´s boardroom on level 12.
Frank Gehry uses space, raw materials, structure and context to challenge our thinking. There is no doubt the design of polygonal planes, sloping structures and inverted forms make a huge impact. As Dr Chau Chak says, ´It is an unforgettable building.´
Gross Floor Area: 18,413 m¦
Useable Floor Area: 15,500 m¦
Project cost: $180 M
Construction cost per m¦: $6,517
Design architect: Gehry Partners
Executive architect: Daryl Jackson Robin Dyke
Main works contractor: Lend Lease
Additional project partners
UTS Program Management Office (project manager)
AECOM (ecologically sustainable design and services engineer)
Arup (lead façades consultant, structural engineer, transportation and traffic)
Austral Bricks (brick manufacture)
Australian Museum Business Services [AMBS] (archaeological investigation and excavation)
AW Edwards (early works contractor)
Casey & Lowe (archaeological consultant)
Dominic Steele Consulting Archaeology (Aboriginal archaeological investigation)
Favetti Bricklaying (bricklaying)
Godden Mackay Logan (heritage assessment)
Marshall Day Acoustics (acoustics consultant)
Morris Goding Access Consulting (accessibility consultant)
RPS (statutory planner)
Urban Art Projects (stainless steel stair manufacture)
Text: Sumisha Gilotra
photos: Andrew Worssam
Gehry Partners, 12541 Beatrice Street, Los Angeles, CA 90066. United States of America.
Tel: + 1 310 482 3000,
Fax: + 1 310 482 3006.
Sustainable Design Features
- Awarded a 5 Star Green Star Design rating Certified by the Green Building Council of Australia.
- Natural day lighting provided through glass panelled curtain wall.
- High performance glazing; insulated double glazed curtain wall with solar control and low emissivity coatings.
- Adjustable blinds minimise glare.
- Locally sourced bricks; durable and low maintenance
- Energy efficient building services, including zero water use air cooled chillers, air handling units and fan coil units with Carbon Dioxide & Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) sensors, timers and individual controls.
- Energy efficient LED & T5 lighting, zoning and controls
- Energy efficient external lighting with daylight sensors
- Highly visible internal staircases function as ´bump space´ to connect people, reduce Energy and water sub-meters connected to campus-wide Energy Management System.
- Real-time sustainability performance data linked to digital screens in public areas.
- Water efficient fixtures
- Rainwater capture, treatment and re-use to supply the building´s toilets and landscaping.
- Capture, treatment and re-use of fire system test and maintenance drain-down water.
- Improved Indoor Environment Quality through selection of materials, furniture, flooring, paints, adhesives and sealants and carpet with zero or low VOCs and use of composite wood products with zero or low formaldehyde content
- Low environmental impact flooring, joinery and loose furniture
- Timber re-used, recycled or from certified sustainable sources; e.g. Radiata Pine glu-lam beamsfrom New Zealand, Victorian ash stairway and Hoop Pine joinery.
- Steel sourced from environmentally responsible steel manufacturers.
- Green concrete; a proportion of cement substituted with flyash (a waste product from power stations).
- Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) products avoided where possible.
- Zero Ozone Depleting Potential refrigerants and insulants.
- Flexible, adaptable space designs for ´future-proofing´ the building.
- Recyclable waste storage space and Hungry Giant polystyrene compactor
- 98% of construction waste recycled.
- 60% of car spaces allocated for small, fuel - efficient cars.
- End of Trip facilities in basement; 160 secure, undercover bicycle spaces, 9 showers, 112 lockers and change facilities.