An Icon in Oz

03 May 2011

The RPS Sydney office is providing planning advice and has managed the preparation of the Environmental Assessment for the landmark new Faculty of Business building on the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) campus, as part of its $1bn, ten year renewal programme.

Named the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building –after the Australian-Chinese businessman who has donated $20m towards its construction; it is the first building in Australia to be designed by internationally acclaimed architect Frank Gehry, and has received considerable interest from international press.

Gehry is creating a design to transform a former industrial site at Ultimo into a building of international repute. The $150m building will be the 81-year-old architect's first in Australia, pending the University's council approval of his finished concept design next year.

The site on the corners of Ultimo Road and Omnibus Lane is in the midst of an inner suburbia of utilitarian architecture and narrow streets –asked if he liked the site at the start of the project, Gehry is reported to have responded thoughtfully: “I like the problem.”

Gehry has described the building as a “trunk and core of activity, with branches for people to connect and [to] do their private work.” The sandy hues of the building echo the sandstone used in Ultimo’s older housing, and tonal contrast is achieved with glass walls to the west –mirroring sections of the surrounding cityscape, and a brick façade to the east –nodding to the dignity of Sydney’s brick heritage. Affectionately dubbed the ‘brown bag’ building by the media, it has attracted a good deal of public interest over its aesthetic design, but the creative innovation of such a complex construction has to be admired.

Construction is due to start next year and it is expected to be completed in 2014. The ‘Treehouse’ –as Gehry refers to it- will be 15,488 square metres, approximately 50 metres high, and is estimated to house 2,907 students and around 326 staff.

The concept of urban renewal is key to the new UTS City Campus Masterplan, which will see the creation of four buildings and precincts that will make the campus an integral part of the surrounding urban and social fabric.

Gehry has won international accolades for his buildings including the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the InterActive Corp headquarters in New York. His designs have earned him the British Royal Gold Medal and the US Pritzker Prize - the two biggest honours in architecture.

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