The 4 Most Amusing Responses to Frank Gehry’s UTS Business School

Wow. This is just TOO easy…

Anyway, Frank Gehry inaugurated his first building in Australia, with the formal opening of the Dr. Chau Chak Wing Building at the University of Technology in Sydney (or the UTS, as all the kids call it). As his first in the country (and as with nearly ANY Gehry building), the building has provided a chance for a WHOLE NEW part of the world to offer criticism on the polarizing style of the world’s most well-known love-him-or-hate-him architect.  At least the media attention has given us some entertaining responses, both positive and negative. After the break, we round up some of the most amusing.

<i>Illustration: Rocco Fazzari</i>
Illustration: Rocco Fazzari


4. “It looks like a paper bag” – Everyone

Ladies and gentlemen, the most obvious criticism; so it’s best we’d get this one out of the way early.  In the Sydney Morning Herald,  architecture critic Elizabeth Farrelly writes ”I had no idea, in first likening the UTS Business School to a brown-paper-bag-karate-chopped-in-the-middle in 2011, that it’d become such a meme, ” making reference to the building’s design reveal on December 17th, 2010 and the reaction on the Skyscraper City forums and as the title of a video posted by Farrelly’s own paper.  Gehry’s reaction? He says ”maybe it’s a brown paper bag, but it is flexible on the inside. There’s a lot of room for change and movement which I think in the world today is essential.” At the opening ceremony, Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove claimed it was “the most beautiful squashed brown paper bag I’ve ever seen.”

3. “A masterpiece to rival the Sydney Opera House in distinctiveness” – an anonymous writer for the Australian Associated Press

It’s likely that this unnamed writer was referencing this article from the Epoch Times, in which Ross Milbourne states “We’ve got the Opera House, and it’s hard to say we are going to beat that, but from what I’ve seen we’ll have an equally outstanding icon at this end of Sydney.” Interesting note: Milbourne is the Vice-Chancellor of UTS, and he said that in 2010 before the design was even complete. But even Gehry quickly interjected by saying “We don’t want to beat that.”

2. “Frank Gehry is the Kim Kardashian of contemporary architecture: all curves, no content.”Elizabeth Farrelly, Sydney Morning Herald

Hey look, Farrelly’s back!  This time, she’s focusing less on the single building and looks at most of Gehry’s catelog of architectural work, stating “the pomp, the market, the infantile love of curvy comfort-tecture: crowd-pleasers all, in the voluptuous Kardashian mould,” she writes. “Indeed, that peachy arse, polished to ‘break the internet’, represents the reigning orthodoxy of our time. But if, like me, you suspect there’s more to life than unbridled market-forces, more to literature than Fifty Shades, more to architecture than the whackiest curves your software can spew up, more to beauty than two oiled and opulent orbs – this ‘more’, surely, is something our houses of higher learning should pursue.”

Farrelly then asks, after comparing Kim K to Gehry’s work, “if it’s an arse, is it a good ‘un?” I don’t know about you, but I don’t think she thinks it is… Just saying.

Image: Peter Bennetts


1: “The building is a map of Gehry’s personal budgetary hierarchy, advancing experimental programmatic and structural feats, prioritising features over finishes.” Nicola Balch, ArchitectureAU

This evaluation is more balanced than points-focused like Farrelly and other critics, as Balch’s project overview for ArchitectureAU of the building started with her confessing that she “approached it with scepticism, arriving with a desire to dislike it,” but then she found things to both like (the fluid interior movement and the interior designing facilitating social and collaborative engagement) and dislike (the brick facade, the prioritising of features over finishes to advance experimental programmatic and structural feats) .

Now I want to take a sack lunch to work…

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