The building’s signature architectural feature—a
warped, fluid facade of 320,000 bricks—needed to
be able to withstand environmental conditions,
such as strong wind. Yet, the rippled pattern meant
the bricks cantilevered in and out, which could
make the facade less stable and more prone to
toppling. So the project team spent six months
determining how the custom-made bricks could be
“Once you got more than four bricks high, the
natural tendency of the brick wall was to fall over,”
Mr. Moore says.
His team collaborated with the UTS engineering
faculty to test multiple methods for threading and
Brick by Brick
The team also juggled contractors to bring Mr. Gehry’s intricate brick design to life. In Australia, the
facade contractor typically accepts the design and construction responsibility. But Sydney, Australia-based
contractor Lend Lease Group had never attempted
such complicated brickwork and believed there was
too much risk to accept the design.
“Therefore, it became the responsibility of UTS to
deliver to the contractor a fully resolved constructible design,” Mr. Moore says.
As part of the original project plan and budget,
the project team hired a special brick designer and
structural engineer, global firm AECOM, which
would accept responsibility for the brick facade
design risk. AECOM helped the project team
develop specific rules for bricklayers to follow during construction, as well as a 3-D model that on-site
engineers could refer to when any brick placement
questions arose. The rules and models helped bricklayers interpret Mr. Gehry’s vision brick by brick.
“We had about 10 on-site engineers walking
around with laptops. Any time a bricklayer ran into
a problem, the site engineer could pull up the 3-D
model and figure out what the intent for that section of the wall was,” Mr. Moore says.
tying the bricks to an interior support wall to keep
them in place. Because the brick facade wasn’t part
of the building’s core structure, and the appropriate
construction time had been built into the schedule, construction was able to continue while Mr.
Moore’s team worked out the solution. As a result,
no time was lost and costs were contained, he says.
ran into a
could pull up
the 3-D model
out what the
intent for that
section of the