Gehry’s concept for the 11-story Dr. Chau Chak Wing, named after a UTS benefactor, was in fact a treehouse—“a growing, learning organism with many branches of thought.” Most of the social and learning spaces are in the “trunk,” and several staircases, like the polished-steel focal point, were designed to encourage the movement of people and ideas. The building will sit alongside the under-construction Goods Line, an elevated city park a la New York City’s High Line. UTS is the southern terminus of what planners are calling Sydney’s “cultural ribbon” that extends north to the Opera House.

The building’s dramatic exterior has a split personality; the east-facing wall of wavy brickwork is a nod to Sydney’s sandstone heritage, while the western façade consists of angular glass shards that mirror Chau Chak’s contemporary neighbors. Achieving the fluid appearance of the undulated side (or the grooves in the “termite’s nest”) involved designing five custom bricks (320,000 in all) and laying them by hand in a stair-step fashion. Three hundred windows pop out at varying degrees, bathing classrooms and student lounges in light and helping the building achieve five-star Green Star certification.

Related: Frank Gehry’s Origami-Like Biomuseo Opens in Panama City

Other sustainability measures include the glass façade’s double-glazed curtain wall, which is great at both repelling and retaining heat from the sun; the use of responsible timber; and a 20,000-liter rainwater catchment tank on the roof that waters the toilets and upstairs gardens. There are also spaces for 160 bicycles in the basement and a water refilling station on every floor. Pretty earthy. Maybe there was something to that dirt mound analogy after all?

+ Gehry Partners, LLP

+ University of Technology, Sydney

All photos by Andrew Worssam. Time-lapse video courtesy of the University of Technology, Sydney/The Timelapse Company.