PHOTOS: This amazing 'crumpled bag' Frank Gehry building has just opened in Sydney

The $180 million Dr Chau Chak Wing Building at Sydney’s UTS. Photo: Andrew Worssam

Frank Gehry, the Canadian-born American architect who’s given the world some its most striking modern buildings, including the titanium-clad Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the EMP Museum in Seattle and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles has given Sydney its most striking building since Jorn Utzon’s Sydney Opera House.

The Dr Chau Chak Wing Building in Ultimo is the new home of the University of Technology Sydney’s business school. Named in honour of the billionaire Australian-Chinese businessman and philanthropist who donated $20 million towards the $180 million cost. Dr Chau also gave UTS $5 million towards scholarships for Australian and Chinese students to study here and in China. It’s part of the University’s $1.2 billion City Campus Master Plan, which includes the equally striking Broadway IT building, lit with green strips, which opened last year.

Frank Gehry’s initial sketch for the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building. Image courtesy of Gehry Partners LLP

Gehry, 85, in Sydney this week for the official opening of his first Australian building, said he was inspired by the idea of a tree house, describing the structure as “a growing learning organism with many branches of thought, some robust and some ephemeral and delicate”.

The architect came to see the Ultimo site, opposite the ABC HQ, in 2009, and sketched the initial design, with its central trunk and multiple branches of learning.

He also looks to the Renaissance for ideas, especially the way the intricate use of folds in clothing brought the subjects to life.

“The fold is primitive, you’re in your mother’s arms when you’re a child, and so we tried to do that with brick,” he said.

The undulating brick façade responds to Sydney’s sandstone heritage, while the large glass panels on the westward facing side reference the building’s city surrounds.

Inside, the main classrooms are oval shaped so students face each other. There are breakout spaces with lounges to hang out and discuss ideas and the crumpled exterior is repeated inside the building too.

When asked if he was happy with the end result, Gehry responded “Oh boy. I’m Jewish and I feel guilty about everything.”
Dr Chau Chak Wing, a media-shy property billionaire with impeccable political connections, is a huge Gehry fan and said the design was “full of passion”.

“There is nothing like it in Australia. He is an unparalleled architect,” he said.

UTS Chancellor Professor Vicki Sara described the building as “a masterpiece of design and engineering. It is indeed a work of art.”

Teaching will begin in the new UTS Business School on 23 February.

There are public tours of the building this weekend, February 7-8 between 9am and 4pm. Registration for the tours opens today February, 2 on the UTS website.

Now take a look at the end result.

Sydneysiders dubbed the building the crumpled paper bag.

Photo: Andrew Worssam

Architect Frank Gehry was inspired by a treehouse.

Photo: Andrew Worssam

1500 people worked on the two-year construction, which cost $180 million.

Photo: Coptercam

It was built by Lend Lease, which is also building Barangaroo.

Photo: Andrew Worssam

There are 14 levels - 11 occupied floors, a basement parking level, plant level and rooftop.

Photo: Coptercam

Its distant cousin is UTS Tower (behind, left), a 27-storey, 1964 modernist edifice designed by the NSW Government Architects Office, that's often criticised as Sydney's ugliest building.

Photo: Coptercam

The glass ‘curtain wall’ is designed to reflect the building’s contemporary context.

Photo: Andrew Worssam

A special brick-fixing system had to be created for the project, which took five time longer than traditional brick laying as a result.

Photo: Andrew Worssam

The total usable floor space is 15,500m².

Photo: Andrew Worssam

The building's design took five years to develop from Gehry's initial concept drawing.

Photo: Andrew Worssam

The project came in on time and budget. Gehry has a reputation for cost blowouts and promised he'd pay any overrun above 10%.

Photo: Andrew Worssam

There's space for 1630 people: 1300 students and 330 staff.

Photo: Andrew Worssam

The technique with the bricks, used to create the organic shape, is called corbelling (stepping) individual bricks.

Photo: Andrew Worssam

The around 320,000 custom made bricks, inspired by Sydney sandstone, were used.

Photo: Andrew Worssam

It's designed so students and staff from different disciplines bump into each other.

Photo: Andrew Worssam

Two oval classrooms feature laminated timber beams, each weighing up to 2 tonnes and up to 12 metres long, made from NZ radiata pine.

Photo: Andrew Worssam

The furniture is by legendary US company Herman Miller.

Photo: Andrew Worssam

The level 3 stairway is made of Victorian ash.

Photo: Andrew Worssam

The high-tech, two-tiered oval classrooms seat 54, and are designed with 360° engagement in mind to create interaction and dialogue.

Photo: Andrew Worssam

The exterior brick corbelling is echoed in the timber interiors.

Photo: Andrew Worssam

The coffee hub is one of multiple casual spaces for people to gather and talk.

Photo: Andrew Worssam

The outdoor terraces are on level 8.

Photo: Andrew Worssam

Acrylic cloud-shaped lights feature throughout the building, including the staff kitchen.

Photo: Andrew Worssam

The polished stainless steel staircase in the main lobby was manufactured by Queensland-based Urban Art Projects.

Photo: Andrew Worssam

Gehry sees the building as 'a growing learning organism with many branches of thought, some robust and some ephemeral and delicate'.

Photo: Andrew Worssam

The student commons on level 5 is for students to study and relax.

Photo: Andrew Worssam

The bricks were custom made by Austral Bricks in Bowral.

Photo: Andrew Worssam

Gehry thinks Sydney's best buildings date from the 19th century.

Photo: Andrew Worssam

The Dr Chau Chak Wing Building is part of UTS’s $1.2 billion master plan.

Photo: Andrew Worssam

NOW WATCH as the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building comes together

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