I remember watching as work proceeded on the wonderfully eccentric University of Technology building in Sydney. The Aussie ‘brickies’ had never coped with anything quite like it. Creating folds and curves from bricks is extremely difficult. One fellow joked that instead of laying a few hundred a day, he was struggling to reach eighty. Housing the School of Business, some 320,000 custom-designed, sandstone bricks were required.
My first view of the completed building was from Centre Point Tower, where my partner Rob and I pointed it out to an overseas guest and promised ourselves we’d go and see it. It was another two years before we ventured into Ultimo, but the architectural genius of Canadian born Frank Gehry certainly made it worth while. Gehry attended the official opening on February 2 2015, and was interviewed by the ABC;
Our mother is our first teacher, which is why Gehry’s original vision fits this place of learning so well. We were even able to glance through a viewing panel and see a lecture taking place in what really was a rather womb-like space. Hmm, slightly disconcerting. And would this be distracting for students? Perhaps it’s one-way glass.
The staircase is of crumpled chrome. Great fun. I sat on the steps thinking I might enroll as a very mature student.
I adore the fact that the restaurant on the ground floor is called 80. Yes, the name was inspired by the bricklayer who said it was a challenge to lay that amount of the unique bricks in a day.
The eatery has a lot of hard surfaces and can get a bit noisy at peak times, but the food is really good. It’s also inexpensive. It cost us forty five dollars all up for this shared platter of delights, plus a glass of wine for Rob and and two coffees.
What an interesting experience it would be for out-of town visitors to explore two iconic buildings in one day; Utzon’s House of Sails at Bennelong Point, and Gehry’s Squashed Paper Bag at Ultimo. This duo of international architects have contributed so much to our harbour city.
I remember my friend Yvonne and her companion being escorted from the foyer of the famous Gherkin, in London. What a different experience we enjoyed here. Wandering around the university I reflected on how lucky we are in Australia to have such freedom of access in a era of (quite understandable) hyper security.
STOP PRESS…. While I am very grateful for Gehry’s design, we locals had the inspiration under our ‘beaks’ all along. Talk about missed opportunity.
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