This week, Sydney, Australia celebrates its newest architectural masterpiece, the Dr Chau Chak Building at the UTS Business School — as Sydney enters the pantheon of cities boasting an iconic Frankie Gehry designed building. Gehry, who first established his architectural practice in Los Angeles back in 1962, has risen to the level of an architect Rock Star or, as some call it, ‘Starchitect‘. Winner of the 1989 Pritzker Prize for Architecture, Gehry is known for unconventional and surprising forms, which might look like they came from aircraft design, shipbuilding, or natural organisms. Gehry’s firm, Gehry Partners, credits their success in bringing these fantastic organic forms to life as real-life buildings to their sophisticated 3-D computer modeling program called Digital Project, which was originally developed for the aerospace industry.
Take a look at the ‘armchair tourist’ video below and you can see the breadth of Gehry’s portfolio of work, from Los Angeles to Toronto, from the Americas to Europe.
From the exquisite detailing, to the unexpected juxtapositions of organic shapes, Gehry’s designs delight the eye and stimulate the senses. We can’t help but add one more video of his perhaps most famous work, the iconic Guggenheim Museum located in Bilbao, Spain. While this video is in French, language is no barrier in appreciating this architectural masterpiece.
Newest Iconic Building in Sydney Already on Architecture Tourists’ Bucket List
Like Bilbao, Sydney is no stranger to architectural masterpieces created by architects with their own unique vision. We’re speaking of course about the Sydney Opera House, designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, which has long become the iconic postcard face of Sydney — known around the world.
But there’s a new kid in town. Dr. Chau Chak spearheaded the effort to bring Frank Gehry to Sydney to design a new addition to the UTS Business School, located in Sydney’s Chinatown. The result is a magnificent structure, already nicknamed the Brown Paper Bag Building, thanks to its soft crumpled appearance. Yet when you come closer, what had at first appeared to be a brown paper or cloth surface is revealed to be intricate brickwork — punctuated with tricked-out bricklaying techniques that add eye-catching focal points to the undulating, wavy exterior surface. Immediately, architectural reviewers connected this design to Barcelona, with its fantastic collection of buildings by Antoni Guadi — which also feature intricate, whimsical shapes and highly-detailed organic surfaces.
Technical Challenges of Laying Bricks in Gravity Defying, Undulating Walls
Like the buildings by Guadi, this new Gehry structure posed significant construction challenges, such as how to build the complex, multi-curved exterior surfaces– out of brick no less! Certainly those who have long memories of Sydney’s architectural history must’ve thought, “Oh No! We’ve seen this movie before!” You may recall that during the 1960s serious construction problems and heated design disagreements during the erection of the Sydney Opera House had escalated to such a degree that there was complete breakdown in communication between Sydney officials and the Danish architect Jørn Utzon. Things eventually turned so sour that Utzon left the project to return home to Europe before the Opera House was completed — never to return to Australia again! Fortunately, Frank Gehry saw this project to completion — even though construction of the curved brick surfaces was a very complex and required invention of entirely new techniques to secure the exterior brick surface to the building structure.
Watch the video below to see an interview with the lead contractor as he discusses the difficulty in laying the brick work to match the design — as well as the new metal restraints they had to invent to ensure the curved surfaces stayed in place.
Gehry Declares: Built on Time and on Budget!
During a press conference and an interview on Australian television, Frank Gehry explains his vision for the building. He believes the organic curves helps humanize the activity going on inside the school. This exterior design motif is carried to the inside, where there are oval shaped conference rooms, which also serve to break down traditional student-teacher hierarchies. Gehry has also been quoted saying that he was inspired by artists and architects from the Renaissance who were themselves fascinated with folds and skin and folds and clothing. “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,” say Gehry.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Want to know more about Frank Gehry’s humanistic approach to architecture? You might want to watch a Sydney Pollack documentary on Frank Gehry (part 1 and part 2) or dive deep into a Ted Talk (see below) that Frank Gehry gave several years ago, asking the question, “Now What?”
So what is next for Frank Gehry? The answer this time may be much closer to home than Australia. Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg selected Gehry back in 2011 to design the new Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, California. Like Apple, with its circular Apple headquarters designed by Foster + Partners, Facebook wants to join the upper echelon of tech companies that showcase their corporate ethos by commissioning outstanding architecture and design projects. A quick look at this Business Insider article will give you a taste of what we can expect to see later in 2015, when the Frank Gehry’s new Facebook Headquarters building is completed.
Show Your Passion for Good Design
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