The talk of the town is the new Dr Chau Chak Wing building at Sydney’s UTS designed by Frank Gehry (LA). Most of that talk is around what the building looks like . A ‘squashed brown paper bag’ seems to be the prevailing description. Whatever you think, the building is unlike any other because of the brickwork.
Today we speak to Grant from Ferrier Baudet Architects who late last year spoke to the projects bricklayers about the experience of being part of the build…
“So how did they do it?”
Well these days Frank Gehry’s office is well known for its use of digital technologies that enable the forms they produce to be constructed. Paper and card models are made in their office at various scales until they find a shape they ‘like.’ These models are then digitally scanned from which emerge the engineering and construction CAD drawings. In the case of the curved brickwork on the UTS building, it is purely a skin. The bricklayers follow the shape of a steel frame already in place which was manufactured in custom pieces from the CAD drawings and delivered and bolted together on site. It’s actually classic brick veneer construction although the bricklayers (Ray and Peter Favetti) told me that every brick was tied to the frame which is a lot of work compared to a standard veneer wall where about every 50th brick is tied to the inside of a timber or steel frame.
“…And what do you think of the building?”
“Well bricklaying was my first trade so I understand what went on at the wall to get that up. The Favettis would have had their best team on that project – it’s very mentally draining to build work like that day in and day out and a single brick that is not laid correctly would stand out a mile. However, it’s always really enjoyable to build a project that you know has the potential to do something special and the team would have known that on this project. I went down to see the building last December and I’m sure the client and the designers are very pleased with the bricklayers’ skills. He achieved a great result. That was Peter’s last job before retiring and I know he was pretty excited about it all.”