Frank Gehry's 'brown paper bag' is green

The newly opened Dr Chau Chak Wing Building at the University of Technology, Sydney boasts more than 25 sustainable design features and has been awarded a 5-Star Green Star rating by the Green Building Council of Australia.

Image: Andrew Worssam/ Video: UTS

The University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) opened on Monday a new iconic landmark in Sydney, the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building, designed by international architect Frank Gehry.

This is the first building in Australia designed by Gehry, who is a 1989 Pritzker Prize laureate, also known as ‘The Nobel Prize’ of architecture. He is known for his cutting-edge designs such as the Guggenheim museums in Bilbao, Spain and Abu Dhabi, UAE, as well as the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.  

The building will be the new home for the UTS Business School once it opens at the beginning of semester on 23 February. “It is a building designed to encourage the sharing of ideas among students and staff alongside our industry and community partners,” said UTS vice-chancellor and professor Attila Brungs.

Dubbed the ‘paper bag’ building because of its brown creased design, the facade was inspired by the folds of skin and clothing, Gehry told the media on Monday.

“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,” he explained.

The Canada-born architect said the building offers a lot of flexibility to its occupants, with ample room for changes and movements. “People will invent ways to use it,” he noted.

UTS said the building was awarded a 5-star Green Star Design rating by the Green Building Council of Australia, as it showcases more than 25 sustainable design features including energy-efficient building technologies, recycled timber, certified sustainable materials, and huge spaces for cycling facilities and fuel-efficient cars.

In addition, 98 per cent of the waste generated during construction was recycled, and a portion of concrete used flyash, a waste product from power stations as substitute for cement. 

The Dr Chau Chak Wing Building, worth A$180 million, is the flagship project of UTS’s city campus master-plan and built with the help of a A$20 million donation from Australian-Chinese businessman and philanthropist Dr Chau Chak Wing, whose son studied architecture at UTS. 

UTS expects the new landmark will be an attractive venue for collaborative learning and work spaces for executive education, business events and forums. Gehry aptly describes the building as “a growing learning organism with many branches of thought, some robust and some ephemeral and delicate”.

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