The architectural world is currently up in brouhaha and buzz, and the keywords relate to Frank Gehry’s Australian debut of the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building, unveiled as a conspicuous section of the business school at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). Named after its Chinese benefactor who donated AUD25 million for the project (and also whose son attends the university), the avant garde 11-floored structure with its ‘crumpled’ facade has the capacity to house over 1,600 students along with staff members.
Interestingly enough, the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building was initially envisaged as a treehouse by the famed architect, with the simple design being sketched on just a napkin with a pen. Some part of this organic-inspired scope translates as a ‘growing structure with branches of thought’, while the ‘trunk’ portion pertains to a focal point from where the connective staircases start. In any case, around a whopping 150 models of various shapes and sizes were crafted, with the final phase designs being tested with Dassault Systèmes’ hi-tech aviation software.
As for the resultant building itself, the attention-grabbing undulating side was made from over 320,000 bricks – all of which were homemade and hand-set in a vernacular fashion. This wavy brickwork belongs to the east-facing side of the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building, and as such harks back to the sandstone-oriented legacy of Sydney itself. On the other hand, the westward wall flaunts its angular glass fragments that allude to the contemporary state of affairs. This duality is mirrored on the inside of the building with traditional college spaces making way for more modernized zoning elements. For example, the classrooms and associated areas are oval in plan to accentuate their spatial values as rooms where students collaborate; while lecture halls totally eschew the hierarchical pattern of seating arrangements.
However, the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building is not only about gimmicky facades and modernistic spaces. The construction also boasts of a 5-Star Green Star rating, courtesy of various architectural techniques. These include a double-glazed curtain wall that acts as both an energy retainer and dispenser, a rainwater catching system atop the roof that accounts for 20,000 liters of water for toilet flushing and gardening, and a smart air-conditioning mechanism that can sense the number of occupants and then adjust its airflow magnitude. These incredible aspects are further complemented by the usage of low-impact timber, and water-refilling stations along every floor.
Image Credits: Andrew Worssam