Climbing the Gehry tree house to a new kind of business school

In summary: 
  • World-renowned architect Frank Gehry has unveiled plans for the UTS Dr Chau Chak Wing building, his first building in Australia
  • Gehry has worked in close collaboration with the UTS Business School on a design that will foster openness and collaboration in teaching and research, and engagement with business and the community

Sydney's Frank Gehry designed Dr Chau Chak Wing building will open a new page in business education in Australia.

The world-renowned architect's plans for the $150 million building, his only in Australia, were unveiled this morning at a media conference at UTS.

West façade, view across Ultimo Pedestrian NetworkWest façade, view across Ultimo Pedestrian Network. Image by Gehry Partners, LLP

UTS has been working with Gehry Partners to design a world-class business school based on the idea of a tree-house structure. As Frank Gehry has put it, "a trunk and core of activity and... branches for people to connect and do their private work."

The building will have two distinct external facades, one composed of undulating brick, referencing the sandstone and the dignity of Sydney’s urban brick heritage, and the other of large, angled sheets of glass to fracture and mirror the image of surrounding buildings.

The project inspired the Australian-Chinese business leader Dr Chau Chak Wing to donate a total of $25 million to UTS; $20 million to support the new building and an additional $5 million to create an endowment fund for Australia-China student scholarships. It is the equal largest ever philanthropic gift by an individual for a university in Australia.

UTS Vice-Chancellor Professor Ross Milbourne said that while the building would undoubtedly become a Sydney landmark, the key element for the University was that it was conceived from the inside out with the needs of the UTS Business School and the University at heart.

"The UTS Business School is transforming itself with an emphasis on integrative thinking – producing students with boundary crossing skills as well as specialised knowledge," Professor Milbourne said.

"From the start Gehry Partners has worked closely with the School's leadership, its academics and students to develop an environment that fosters and encourages this openness and collaboration in teaching and research, and engagement with business and the community.

West elevationWest elevation. Image by Gehry Partners, LLP

"This is a building for all of Sydney. There will be extensive public spaces with an external design that complements and acknowledges its place within the immediate area and within the city.

"The project is already providing benefits for students outside the Business School, with four UTS architecture students selected for internships at Gehry Partners' studios in Los Angeles."

The 11-storey Dr Chau Chak Wing building will stand at the corner of Ultimo Road and Omnibus Lane on a site that once housed the Dairy Farmers Cooperative and is currently being used as a car park.

Professor Milbourne said some elements of the schematic design were still fluid and will be subject to some modification, pending community consultation and authority approval. Community and stakeholder consultation will take place from 17 December to 14 January.

Construction is due to start in early 2012 and be complete in time for the 2014 academic year.

The Dr Chau Chak Wing Building is part of the ten-year $1 billion UTS City Campus Masterplan, which is helping transform the southern CBD and will deliver a cutting-edge and connected campus for staff, students and the broader community.

For more information on the project, including a fact sheet, high resolution images and video clips from an interview with Frank Gehry by Jana Wendt, visit:

Big, bold and beautiful! The Chau family has made a gift to the City, not just UTS, with this stunning building.



Beautiful! Waiting to see it.

Typical of architects, spare a thought for the construction company trying to build it and the extra costs associated with the non typical floor levels. I'm sure one day we will look at it and wonder what on earth were we thinking.

i dont think this building shows the real expression of sydney's and its economics.
even frank gehry doesnt show us any different shape or exploration in forms.

Stunning, and uniquely Gehry.

what an amazing gift, and I'm proud of my alma mater for being a smaller university keen to make a big name for itself.

And we thought the UTS tower building was ugly...

what the hell is this
are you serious, that is not a building that is a disaster
sack this guy and be civilised people, we dont need any more i sores, stop trying to be so different
simplicity and functionality goes a long way



Jesus Christ! It's like Beirut in here.

Simply stunning, an absolute masterpiece.
Check out the structural integrity.

This looks like a lovely cheese for me for Christmas. Alas someone else was here before me I do believe and they have nearly eaten it away. Will it still be here at New Year? Doesn't look too sure.
Never mind, I will sniff around it with my whiskers and perhaps there will be a bit left.


They did well with Building 10, but looks like UTS is making an effort to remain the ugliest uni in Sydney.

Is it April have got to be kidding it looks bloody awful? I am afraid I would be rejecting this monstrosity

Fabulous. Sydney finally gets an exciting modern building. Endless gratitude to the Chau family. You've made history.

If this is built, I'd be embarrassed to say I graduated from UTS.

While the design is interesting and the internal floor plans look ideal, the facade of the building looks awful. UTS is about the future and futuristic, yet sustainable buildings. Think modern looks, lots of glass and steel but not over the top. Also about incorporating "green" in the design too.

This main building is the complete opposite. From the design, it looks like it's made of clay and falling apart. Definitely not an image that UTS, let alone the Business department should be portraying.

It's obviously hard to judge it entirely from basic plans but I'm not holding much hope for a good, final design. Considering how good some of Gehry's designs are, he's completely missed the target with this one. I wonder what Dr Wing has to say about it?

It looks incredibly hideous... like melted plastic. I thought UTS was trying to get away from being an eyesore for architecture?

Fantastic to see this vision becoming reality. A great landmark for Sydney and for a great institution. A contemporary bauhaus design with a Gaudi exterior feel in a cosmopolitan city deserving of great architecture.

This is hideous! I actually thought it had melted! It looks like wet cardboard boxes with children sticking on tiles for windows!

Dr Chau Chak and his family should withdraw their donation if this is built!

Please reconsider! This design is a ugly, and does not reflect a modern and ambitious university! It actually mocks the alumni and their feelings towards UTS! I can confidently say that I will NEVER donate a cent to UTS if this is monstrosity built!

This makes me sad and embarrassed to be UTS Alumni.

Please, PLEASE, reconsider!

Very disappointing.....

So, this is what it will look like AFTER the earthquake has hit Sydney?

What is more important? to project Gehry's or UTS's image through this building, which unfortunately cannot be seen through this building. I am afraid UTS has made a mistake to assign him, if that is the goal.

My only question is, why didnt UTS hire an Aussie Architect? It is stunning to see, but not sure if it complements the space in the city. Time will tell.

Bloody Awful !
Is the $20M to support the building after it's construction ?
It looks like Gehry obvious didn't like the conventional structure and took the blowtorch to it.
As an UTS alumni student I'd rather they built a conventional building and put more money into scholarships and education.

Please tell me this is not true. You've got to be joking!!!! - it's grotesque.

Are we trying to get one up on Melbourne's Federation Square, or maybe we are submitting an entry to provide a hobbit town for another "Lord of the Rings" movie?

For $150 million it makes the Opera House look like a bargain for >$103 million 30 years ago.

This is an eyesore - A TOTAL DISGRACE. I agree with someone else who said if this goes ahead, I will be very embarrassed to admit that I graduated from UTS (oh, beg your pardon, NSWIT).

All I can say PLEASE, PLEASE go back to the drawing board and start again designing a building with a decent facade.

Thank You.

Thank God I'm now at Sydney Uni.

Thank God I'm now at Sydney Uni.

Don't waste Dr Chau's donation to an EYE SORE for decades to come!!! Please build something that SYDNEY will be proud of like the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Don't build another FEDERATION SQUARE that will be the shame of SYDNEY for many generations to come!!

at least they got half of it right, the brick elevation is ugly though

I like it. Haven't been able to download the larger images because I'm at work but what I see I like. It'll be good to see something a little structurally different from the boxes with dresses that most of the new buildings in Sydney are. I'm sorry, putting a pretty metal grate over a cube of a building doesn't make it beautiful.
I say screw with conventional, enough of Sydney is Meritonia as it is.

Disgusting. If you think this is somehow progressive, or beautiful, then I believe you must be abusing some sort of substance.

Absolutely stunning. And long overdue for Sydney. Our admiration to our benefactor, the great Frank Gehry and the University for having the courage to say "Yes !"

Visionary, completely out of the ordinary and unique and equally as important enviromentally self-suffficent.

Looks like the decision was based solely on meeting a budget... And if not - the person that gave final approval needs to rethink this big mistake.

It's visionary, bold, innovative and futuristic - all the things Sydney wants to be but never quiet achieves with it's to often mediocre and boringly square architecture. Congratulations to UTS for embarking on this journey; time will show that it is the right architectural strategy and hopefully an encouragement for a more innovative less hesitant Sydney.

I'm not sure if I like it to be honest. It's a little too ghetto looking. I like the new IT building next to building 10 better.

Maybe if they change the colour to green instead of the ugly brown or whatever it is, then it would ook better.


Given this is a business school, the imploding west facade is an excellent model of world corporation-based business and the GFC!
Will business now go "organic" and seek to work with nature?

This is awful. There is nothing beautiful about a building that looks like its collapsing in on itself. Nothing in the design symbolises UTS or Sydney’s character. It’s like a crumpled in brown paper rubbish bag. This does not represent a professional place for business studies. Ugly buildings stay ugly forever e.g. UTS Tower and Blues Point Rd Apartment block. As a graduate of UTS its embarrassing.

The front looks like a gutless building, cowering and shrivelling back from the world. Not a place where graduates and meant to come out and take on the business world!

I think that this building is a bold innovative step.

The building sends a strong message to students and researchers of Management which is that we should never be satisfied with the status quo and traditional management approaches. We need to think outside the square.

The message is also to "Shake up our thinking" and to always be in search of new approaches to business and management in the rapidly changing world we live in.

Dr.John P. Morgan
PhD, M.B.A., B.Econ., CPA, F.A.I.M.
Research Fellow,
Management and Marketing,
The University of Melbourne,
Parkville, Vic. 3010

As I understand, this swiss cheese will totter opposite the graceful, tasteful and congruent building built to house the Faculties of Business and Law and completed in the early 80's from memory. That building, with its remnant heritage tower, is a real delight in the way that it relates to its market building surroundings (I have not been there for years, but I studied there) yet created something new and modern and totally suitable, filled with light and also accessible.

This new building seems totally out of place, lacking in grace and is an insult to business. Does the architect imply business is like a swiss cheese? Does he think business is about to collapse? The Sydney Opera House was, although a challenge to engineers, appropriate in that it related to its Harbour setting and reflected the sails on the Harbour.

What does this collapsing swiss cheese reflect? How does it relate to the neighbourhood in a complimentary fashion?

I could see it fitting in to Barcelona which has a few similar weird buildings, but not in the Haymarket region of Sydney. It needs a re-think.

Also, surely the engineering costs of this collapsing swiss cheese would be quite challenging as the construction engineers try to translate this model into a building that will not actually collapse, as the model seems to suggest it is about to do.

This is an example of the lowest form of art - incoherent, pretentious, superficially creative design passed off as originality in the place of actual substance (ie any semblance of a good idea). A sad day for Sydney and Western civilisation.

The real thing must look impressive, but only the real thing would...

Come back Tom Wolfe, we need you now. Vanquish this pretentious white god and make clear that the emperor and his cult followers have no clothes.

I cannot wait to see the building, it will be a must see when down in Sydney. The relevant stake holders should take the opportunity to open up the UPN, up to the Seidler designed Ian thorp pool. It will definetly be one of the best pedestrian/ cycleways.