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Asia-Pacific / / Sydney

Frank Gehry has designed a building in Sydney to look like folded skin

Frank Gehry isn’t known for his traditional design sense. His “Dancing House” in Prague, inspired by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, looks drunken, rather than dancing; his Experience Music Project building in Seattle looks like a pile of deconstructed human hearts. 

His new project, the $150m Dr Chau Chak Wing building at Sydney’s University of Technology, also gestures towards the anatomical. At the opening ceremony on Tuesday, Gehry said he was inspired by the “folds” in skin and clothing:

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. 

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Image: Getty.

Others have said the building, which was built by hand from individually shaped stones, looks more like a paper bag. That’s a desription Gehry is apparently fine with: “Maybe it’s a brown paper bag, but it’s flexible on the inside, there’s a lot of room for changes or movement,” he said.

An architectural model of Gehry’s design. Image: Gehry Partners LLP.

The building, like many of Gehry’s others, is made up of undulations, to the point where there’s hardly a straight line in sight. That’s broadly the point: Gehry has said of standard, box-shaped towers that they look “facelesss, not friendly, and cold”. 

So can you ever have too much spectacle? Helpfully, a reporter asked Gehry exactly that at a press conference last year, and his reply was short and to the point:

Image: Youtube screengrab.

Looks like he won’t be departing from the outlandish anytime soon, then.
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