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.
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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".
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.
This sandstone-coloured curving brickwork, all laid by hand, is intended to reference Sydney's architectural heritage.
In contrast, the angular west-facing elevation is made up of shards of glass, designed to offer fractured reflections of neighbouring buildings.
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".
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.
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.
Other facilities include a theatre designed for technology-supported interaction, as well as a variety of classroom types to suit postgraduate students.
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.
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.
Photography is by Peter Bennetts.
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