Frank Gehry's "paper bag" business
school opens in Sydney

| 58 comments

News: Frank Gehry's new teaching and research facility for Sydney's University of Technology has now opened, and has been described as "the most beautiful squashed brown paper bag" (+ slideshow).

UTS Business School by Frank Gehry

The Dr Chau Chak Wing facility for UTS Business School is the first building the 85-year-old Los Angeles-based architect has completed in Australia, and is located on the university's city campus, just south of Sydney's Central Business District.



UTS Business School by Frank Gehry

The building's curvy structure – created using 320,000 custom-designed bricks – had prompted critics to compare it to a crumpled paper bag. But at the opening ceremony yesterday Australia's governor general Peter Cosgrove introduced it as "the most beautiful squashed brown paper bag I've ever seen".

UTS Business School by Frank Gehry

Gehry is best known for buildings with fluid shapes, from the Walt Disney Concert Hall to the Guggenheim Bilbao, but he has described this project as unique. "I won't do this building anywhere else," he said during the opening.

UTS Business School by Frank Gehry

This sandstone-coloured curving brickwork, all laid by hand, is intended to reference Sydney's architectural heritage.

UTS Business School by Frank Gehry

In contrast, the angular west-facing elevation is made up of shards of glass, designed to offer fractured reflections of neighbouring buildings.

UTS Business School by Frank Gehry

According to Gehry, the design was inspired by a treehouse. The expressive external form was a result of the complicated internal layout, described by the architect as "a growing learning organism with many branches of thought, some robust and some ephemeral and delicate".

UTS Business School by Frank Gehry

The centrepiece of the main lobby features a sculptural staircase made from polished stainless steel, while elsewhere on the ground floor is a cafe that opens out to the street.

UTS Business School by Frank Gehry

Two oval-shaped classrooms are framed by 150 large timber beams. A staircase built from Victorian ash wraps around one of these, leading up to a student lounge on the floor above.

UTS Business School by Frank Gehry

Other facilities include a theatre designed for technology-supported interaction, as well as a variety of classroom types to suit postgraduate students.

UTS Business School by Frank Gehry

A total of 160 bicycle parking spaces are provided, as well as lockers, changing areas and showers, expected to encourage students and staff to cycle more.

UTS Business School by Frank Gehry

Due to welcome its first students later this month, the UTS Business School was completed as part of £612 million overhaul of the university's facilities. It accompanies Denton Corker Marshall's recently completed engineering faculty, and will be joined later this year by a new graduate health and science building.

UTS Business School by Frank Gehry

Photography is by Peter Bennetts.

UTS Business School by Frank Gehry
Site plan – click for larger image
UTS Business School by Frank Gehry
Level two floor plan – click for larger image
UTS Business School by Frank Gehry
Level three floor plan – click for larger image
UTS Business School by Frank Gehry
Level four floor plan – click for larger image
UTS Business School by Frank Gehry
Level five floor plan – click for larger image
UTS Business School by Frank Gehry
Level eight floor plan – click for larger image
UTS Business School by Frank Gehry
Section one – click for larger image
UTS Business School by Frank Gehry
Section two – click for larger image
UTS Business School by Frank Gehry
Section three – click for larger image
  • generalpopulation

    Argh. Stop it.

  • NaughtyArchitect

    Like it or not, it’s an impressive feat to build a paper bag out of bricks.

    • generalpopulation

      It’d be an impressive feat to exterminate the entire human race. We don’t do it though, do we?

      • Dan

        Some may say we are…

        • Don

          So heavy.

        • Rory

          Deep.

  • davvid

    As far as I can tell from these images, it looks fantastic.

    The facade almost seems to echo some newer technological forms/patterns like solar panel farms or LED mesh.

    The generic glass curtain walls on the backsides are less impressive.

    • Michel

      Unfortunately it only looks good in photos. These photos by the way are shot in wide angle or from places that the usual pedestrian would not reach…

      • davvid

        Have you seen this in person?

  • Joggl

    Gehry showing Sydney the middle finger?

    • studio

      Or to paraphrase Geo Burns: say goodnight Frank.

  • Hotte

    Its funny how the “stars” are bonded to their old ideas… But this looks quite good compared to Düsseldorf oder Herford. Even in brick.

  • sor perdida

    Now that you paid for it, you better start liking it!

  • Jr

    Maybe the ugliest squashed paper bag I’ve ever seen.

  • Rogan Josh

    Personally I find the audacity of the haters to make sweeping statements a bit frustrating, especially coupled with the fact they probably haven’t even seen the building in person. Although I do not agree with Gehry or his ideaologies at large, it’s important to objectively assess and understand the architecture itself.

    The plans are an interesting challenge in spatial connections and qualities and the feat achieved in construction is simply quite incredible.

    • Guest

      Why do people who don’t like this building have to be “haters”? Where is all this “hate” you and your ilk detect?
      Just another bandwagon to jump upon, perhaps?

      • davvid

        Because they do it any time Gehry does anything.

        • Guest

          What do they do?

          • davvid

            Insult.

          • Guest

            Insult? Seriously?

            So having the temerity to not like a Gehry building is now an “insult” to the great man. Yeah, right!

          • davvid

            Insults. Seriously.

            Also, thoughtless, superficial and boring commentary.

            It’s as though people don’t know how to discuss unusual looking things. They only know “like” or “no like”.

          • Guest

            So let me attempt to clarify this. “They only know ‘like’ or ‘no like'”, apart – and this where I get confused – from when they “insult” the great man.

            Goodness me, how simple the architectural world would be if we all loved “squashed brown paper”.

          • davvid

            You didn’t clarify anything and I don’t think you were really trying to.

            Gehry has been producing unusual looking buildings for over 30 years. It’s sort of like making fun of the work of Jackson Pollack, John Cage or Alexander McQueen. Of course they produced unusual stuff. It would be foolish to have expected something sedate. If you can get beyond the “golly, that’s strange looking” reaction, you might be able to contribute something useful to the conversation.

          • Guest

            How could I ever clarify something so thoroughly contradictory? As for contributing, I contribute when I think the work, like that of a Zumthor, Chipperfield or Pawson, is worth commenting on.

          • Garth

            I’m still trying to dislodge that finger in my butt…

    • tyrannosaurus_rek

      Do you also require Gehry’s boosters see the building in person before praising it? Achieving a challenging ‘feat’ doesn’t mean it looks good.

  • WaxWing

    For all the fuss, effort, and money spent on the facade and form the spaces are pretty banal. The lecture hall and classroom look like they could be at a Holiday Inn Express.

    • Sam

      Exactly, the thought to spatial experience seems absolutely non existent here. Even when there are a few ‘whacky’ surfaces and materials, the overall space still doesn’t come across as exciting, appealing or thought provoking. As you say, that lecture hall, it is horrendously bland, very little imagination there.

      The entire building itself, to me, looks already dated; using the same tired format of his previous work, where one could hardly say he was successful in all of those endeavors.

      Try again Gehry, I’m sure you will come up with something entirely different.

  • Oyster

    He’s got stuck in post-modernism.

  • Shawn Mardy

    Looks more like a clown college than a business school.

    • DS

      Might be intentional, we may never know. A fun poke at the question “what’s in the bag?”

  • Kenzo

    Someone stop this man!

  • spadestick

    Would have been better without those curtain walled sides. From some angles, Gaudi would have been proud – “Gehrdi”.

  • kamil kibar

    With all due respect to everyone here, it is always amusing to to read the clashing comments when it is a Gehry building.
    I confess that most of the time I find myself liking what he does, although they bring up so many issues. And that must be important.

  • buvi

    One can see in the sections that this architecture just doesn’t work out. Unfotunately slabs were, are and will be horizontal – and the lifts vertical or at least othogonal. And from a metaphorical point of view it is questionable. What do a paperbag and a business school have in common? But it is amazing to see what nowadays can be achieved with brick, concrete or whatever. And I agree that this architecture, whether one likes it or not, is improving the building and engineering skills all around the world. It is down to each architect to take advantage of these advancements to create what he thinks is right.

    Still I personally do not like it. But I also didn’t pay for it.

  • Gaurav Lakhanpal

    “A growing learning organism with many branches of thought, some robust and some ephemeral and delicate” – appreciate the sensitivity in the thinking of the architect.

    • Concerned Citizen

      I see no evidence of thought.

  • Fred Titmus

    Just what the world needs, a business school that looks like a paper bag.

  • sebastian thomas

    Could care less about the interiors – it’s a classroom. Besides, I think I’d feel rather ‘inspired’ in an amazing timbered UN-like room, with a huge window.
    The rest of the place is exciting and delicious.

  • Noemi

    I don’t know why, but I actually like it.

    • Concerned Citizen

      Seems to express the mind of Gehry.

  • TFO

    Leave it to Gehry to f*ck up an interesting opportunity to marry a standard, modular material with his wilful form-making. Custom bricks?! And who the HELL picked their color?!

  • Dave Carcamano

    Beautiful building, and always amusing to see how uncle Frank still manages to upset people.

  • Dylan R-B

    do you ever feel like a paper bag… drifting through the wind… wanting to start again….

  • Joseph Strawbridge

    Gehry’s work – a very welcome challenge to contempory architecture in Australia.

  • 8mismo

    Why wait for a terrorist attack for your building to look like its been bombed when you can just hire Frank to design it! Just kidding, I actually really dig this. It has a lot of personality without stepping too far into kitschdom.

  • Herman Mhire

    Stock market crashing.

  • Joel K.

    This building can relate to Katy Perry.

  • Kyle

    Looks expensive.

  • loaf

    Not sure I see a paper bag and not sure why a paper bag. Ok, off to lunch now.

  • (Hands over eyes) Make It Stop.

  • studio

    “98% of what gets built today is shit” says Frank Gehry.

    Well, he said it. and this is clearly NOT part of the 2%.

  • andrew wood

    Is “Wing” Dr. Chau Chak’s last name, or is it the building Wing named after Dr. Chau Chak?

  • Concerned Citizen

    Laughable, if some poor sucker didn’t have to pay for it.

  • John McGrath

    If it wasn’t designed by Frank Gehry, would they really have gone along with it? Whilst I appreciate the complexity of the design, complexity doesn’t always make a good building.

    The interior seems quite ordinary in comparison with the carpet looking as if it was an after thought. I am actually a big fan of a lot of Gehry’s work, but perhaps he is better suited to designing museums rather than schools.