On Monday 15 October 1979, after eight years of construction, then-NSW Premier Neville Wran declared the Tower open.
The Tower, which is around 120 metres tall with 32 levels and unashamedly Brutalist in style (the term comes from the French béton brut, meaning raw concrete), divided opinions from the start. According to some, UTS stands for the ‘ugliest tower in Sydney’; others claimed it was giving Sydney the middle finger. As the university’s first Vice-Chancellor Gus Guthrie somewhat drily pointed out, however, “We have a tower, but no one could claim it’s an ivory one”.
The original plan called for seven tower-like buildings on the Broadway site, with the number later trimmed to four and then three. But, for financial reasons only one-and-a-half were competed, the half being building 2 – now demolished to make way for UTS Central.
One long-running myth has been that the high-set windows featured on each floor of the Tower were designed that way to avoid students being distracted by the view during class. Not true. The high windows were a requirement for wall-mounted engineering equipment accommodated in the Tower at the time.
Another myth that still lingers, decades after the end of the Cold War, is that of a nuclear fall-out bunker built into the Tower’s basement. While there is no evidence of this, recent excavations for the UTS Central project did uncover a pit unmarked on any plan.
Despite its singularity, or perhaps because of it, over time the Tower has captured imaginations and hearts. It has been celebrated in snow domes, as millinery and against Instagram-perfect blue skies on social media.
And despite three striking new buildings delivered by the City Campus Master Plan – and one more to come (UTS Central) – at 39 years young, the imposing UTS Tower remains the heart and soul of our re-imagined campus. And it begs the question: what stories will the UTS Tower have to tell in middle age?
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Marketing and Communication Unit