Is Frank Gehry’s building a new architectural icon for Australia?

Sydney has joined the list of cities with a Frank Gehry-designed building

Inspired by the idea of a tree house, Gehry describes his building design as “a growing learning organism with many branches of thought, some robust and some ephemeral and delicate”

SYDNEY (Australia) – Sydney’s newest architectural landmark, the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), was officially opened.

The Chau Chak Wing Business School building has been dubbed the “brown paper bag” by local media. Speaking at the building’s opening, Mr Gehry said he hoped the building would generate a “spirit of invention”.

Governor-General of Australia Sir Peter Cosgrove officially opened the new 20 million Australian dollars (15.5 million U.S. dollars) building, which was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry, and will be the home to the UTS Business School.

UTS Vice Chancellor Professor Attila Brungs said the new 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.

“Frank Gehry has created unique spaces to inspire a life-long love of learning, enable completely new educational experiences and enrich UTS’s approach to research,” Brungs said.

“It is a building designed to encourage the sharing of ideas among students and staff alongside our industry and community partners.”

UTS Chancellor Professor Vicki Sara said the new building was a masterpiece of design and engineering and was a symbol of everything UTS stands for.

“It epitomises our vision to be a world-leading university of technology where creativity and innovation intersect,” Sara said.

Inspired by the idea of a tree house, Gehry describes his building design as “a growing learning organism with many branches of thought, some robust and some ephemeral and delicate”.

The new complex is designed from the inside out, starting with the collaborative learning and work spaces. It features a unique east-facing sandstone coloured, undulating brick facade that responds to Sydney’s sandstone heritage, while the large glass panels which comprise the west facing facade reference the building’s city surrounds.

Australia-Chinese businessman funds innovative new Sydney university building

The idea for the $180 million Dr Chau Chak Wing Building at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) came to Gehry after a 2009 visit to see the old Dairy Farmers site in a grungy part of Ultimo. After a pizza with the business school’s dean, the world famous architect whose physics defying buildings have turned rundown towns into tourist meccas scribbled a design for a treehouse shaped building with a central trunk with branches for learning and reflecting.

The A$180m ($140m; £93m) building for the Business School of UTS is named after businessman and philanthropist Dr Chau Chak Wing.

Wing donated 20 million Australian dollars (15.5 million U.S. dollars) toward completion of the building and has also donated 5 million Australian dollars (3.8 million U.S. dollars) for scholarships making it possible for Australian and Chinese students to study in Australia and in China.

Wing said he was delighted Frank Gehry had accepted the UTS commission.

“His design is distinctive, full of passion,” he said. “There is nothing like it in Australia. He is an unparalleled architect.”

How it began: The $25 million gift

A father’s love for his only son – and that son’s admiration of the world’s most famous architect – was the genesis of a $25 million gift by the media shy Australian-Chinese billionaire businessman Dr Chau Chak Wing who contributed to Sydney’s first Gehry building, Sydney Morning Herald reports.

At the launch of the building that carries his name on Monday, the chairman of the Kingold Group said it would become “a new icon for Australia and Sydney”.

“Its design is distinctive, full of passion,” he said of the new Dr Chau Chak Wing business school building at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS). “Frank Gehry is a courageous, tough and wise old man,” said Dr Chau.

Like many parents, Dr Chau first visited the inner city campus of the UTS near Chinatown when his son, Eric, was deciding where to study design. Unlike most parents, he developed a close relationship with the former vice chancellor of the university, Ross Milbourne, and Professor William Purcell, deputy vice chancellor of development.

The $20 million contribution by Dr Chau to the Gehry building – plus a $5 million scholarship fund – wasn’t his first “benevolence” to the university, and it is unlikely to be the last. “We are eternally grateful,” said Professor Purcell. “Dr Chau has told us that there will be other gifts and his son Eric will one day make us a major gift.”

Dr Chau is often described as “mysterious” because he rarely gives media interviews, although he owns one of Australia’s Chinese language newspapers which is run by his daughter Winky Chau. As well as making donations to Australian political parties in Australia, he has supported cultural institutions including the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney, and sponsored the biannual Australia China business dialogue. He was also instrumental in his home state of Guangdong in southern China adopting NSW’s school curriculum for the HSC. A father of three and a new grandfather, his daughter Winky Chau, who once worked for former NSW premier Bob Carr, edits the Australian version of News Express Daily, a Chinese language newspaper.

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About the Author: Akhtar Jamal

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