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UTS Dr Chau Chak Wing Building


Design- Frank Gehry  Documentation- Lend Lease Design


UTS Dr Chau Chak Wing Building




Millennium Deconstructivist


reinforced concrete frame, brick cladding with some curtain wall glazing. Incredible brickwork.
Contractor- Lean Lease.


Education offices and lecture theatres
  Images shown copyright architect.
Above- original architectural renderings (copyright architect)
Above- Construction images
Above- the finished product. Incredibly photogenic, but I understand the internal spaces are quite tortured.
Frank Gehry's UTS Dr Chau Chak Wing Building opened: 'The most beautiful squashed brown paper bag ever seen'

February 3, 2015 Julie Power Copyright SMH

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.

"I'm Jewish so I feel guilty about everything. It takes me about two years to come around and I see all the things I want to change," Gehry said, reflecting on his work at the opening.

"I'm pleased with it but I haven't seen it in operation yet, I haven't seen the kids here or witnessed the outlet being used. I'm hoping to do that and especially speak and meet the faculty today about ideas I have and to hear their thoughts about some of the spaces. It's open-ended and it hopefully gives them the spirit of invention.

"This building can and will be manipulated over time and will change as it's being used. People will invent ways to use it. The tendency to build buildings where everything is fixed for a fixed program is an obsolete notion."

The brick facade of the new UTS Gehry building

Over the past five years Gehry's squiggle has been developed, expanded, tested and modelled in the architect's Californian headquarters, where as many as 150 wooden and paper models on different scales were built. The final models' curves and lines were then turned into 3D designs using software originally developed by aviation company Dassault Systèmes to build planes.

It has also helped the architect, who is struggling to overcome a reputation for projects that come in late and over budget, take on the dual role of architect and master builder to control costs and the process. Mr Gehry said the new business school came in on time and on budget. He later told the Herald that he'd promised the Chancellor Vicki Sara that it would come in within 10 per cent of the forecast. If it hadn't, he would have been obliged to pay for the cost overruns himself. "What if I hadn't? I would have had to cough up the remainder."

When the building appeared to lack something, Mr Gehry famously squeezed its middle, something that is reflected in the buckled waist of the structure's undulating walls comprising 320,000 bricks which were each laid by hand. It was this facade that created the biggest challenges, said Patrick Woods, UTS deputy vice chancellor (resources).

Frank Gehry's Dr Chau Chak Wing Building.

"The glass side had its challenges, but the bricks, we looked at it, and thought we have no idea how to do that," said Mr Woods. "It's trademark [Gehry]. He designs and then we work it out." And making it work took multiple consulting firms, he said.

Construction began in November 2012, and by the end of this month more than 1630 business school students and staff will be bumping into each other in the trunk of the building - the stairs and other central areas are designed to encourage "water cooler" moments where students and staff from different disciplines are forced to cross paths.

Instead of old-fashioned Harvard-style auditoriums and large offices dominated by faculty, the building encourages a more egalitarian and collegiate approach to learning. The two new oval-shaped classrooms encourage the lecturer to become part of the student body, while the 120-seat style theatre is designed so that two rows of desks and chairs are on the same level to encourage students to work together in small groups. Staff's offices are all the same, only 9 square metres. Organic pod-shaped small meeting areas branch out, encouraging students to meet on the real Herman Miller furniture (Gehry vetoed imitations) or stretch out on soft mats or in window nooks.

Describing his vision, Mr Gehry wrote to the dean of the business school Roy Green back in 2009: "Thinking of it as a tree house came tripping out of my head on the spur of the moment," he wrote. He wanted a growing learning organism with many branches of thought, some robust and some ephemeral and delicate, he wrote.

The design has been slammed by some, but the Governor-General described it as "the most beautiful squashed brown paper bag I've ever seen".

While a young student said it was a lovely place to be, a builder working on a nearby site wondered how many student buildings could have been built for the same price.

Frank Gehry's UTS Dr Chau Chak Wing Building opens

From little squiggles, big treehouses grow: Australia's first Frank Gehry building featuring many of the famous architect's signature curves and trademark wizardry has been opened by the Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove. Photo: James Brickwood
The new UTS building The Frank Gehry-designed Dr Chau Chak Wing of the UTS. Professor Roy Green in front of the UTS business school's Dr Chau Chak Wing building opening. A detail of the Frank Gehry-designed Dr Chau Chak Wing of the UTS. A detail of the Dr Chau Chak Wing of the UTS. The Gehry building Frank Gehry at the UTS building opening on Monday. Dr Chau Chak with his son Eric. Frank Gehry at the opening of the UTS building he designed. Governor-General Peter Cosgrove with Frank Gehry and UTS Chancellor Vicki Sara at the opening of the Gehry-designed Dr Chau Chak wing of UTS
The Frank Gehry-designed Dr Chau Chak Wing of the UTS. Inside the Frank Gehry-designed Dr Chau Chak Wing of the UTS. Inside the Frank Gehry-designed Dr Chau Chak Wing of the UTS. View all 17 photos

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.

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".

"The most beautiful paper bag I've ever seen,'' said the Governor-General.
"The most beautiful paper bag I've ever seen,'' said the Governor-General. Photo: Andrew Worssam
"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."

It was while Eric was studying for the degree in interior and spatial design that the "stars aligned" for the university, said Professor Purcell. By that time in 2010, UTS had decided to scrap a design competition and commission Gehry's treehouse design for the new business school.

When asked how the university got the gift, Professor Purcell said Dr Chau had great interest in education, his major business arm is building buildings, he believed in UTS' vision and his son was a fan of Gehry.

"His son Eric is a passionate follower of Frank Gehry," he said. "To have the world's most famous architect, who his son most passionately follows, helped bring the gift together," Professor Purcell said. "You can see that all stars aligned at the right time."

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.

Dr Chau appears to have a dry sense of humour. After more than 70 meetings in China and in Australia over the initial $20 million gift towards the building, he announced: "I am not going to give you $20 million ." Professor Purcell and the vice chancellor gasped. Then Dr Chau continued, recalled Professor Purcell: "'I am actually going to give you $25 million in total, but $5 million is for a scholarship program," he said. "Maybe it was the interpreting, but we did hold our breath for a minute."

During construction, Dr Chau visited frequently, inspecting it with the sharp eye of a builder. "I always insist on every project in which we invest must be at the pinnacle of innovation and quality. This may not be the quickest way, but it is without doubt the correct way," he said. "This may not be the quickest way, but it is without doubt the correct way," he said.

Facts and figures

Number of straight columns: One
Sharpest angle: 72 degrees
Length of the longest unbroken column: 13.78 metres
Number of bricks: 320,000 bricks were laid by hand to create the tessellated facade using five custom-made brick types, manufactured by Austral Bricks in Bowral. Each brick was connected to the infrastructure using a brick-fixing system developed for the project. The bricks were so difficult to lay that master bricklayer Peter Favetti came out of retirement. Because the walls are curved, and many of the bricks stick out at angles, laying the bricks took five times longer than traditional face-finished bricks.
Best spot to see it: ABC managing director Mark Scott's office in the adjacent ABC building. Frank Gehry went to the area to get his first good look at the site in late 2009.
Numbers of workers: About 1500 during construction.
Number of students and staff it will accommodate: 1630
Environmental ratings: 5-Star Green Star rating thanks to features such as the air-conditioning system, which works similar to a sensor light in that it adjusts on and off with people in the room, and Gehry's innovative lighting specialist who eliminates the need for most exterior lights by making internal lights cast a light outside.