Op-Ed: Surreal and beautiful- Gehry’s new building meets Dali in Sydney

Posted Dec 17, 2010 by Paul Wallis
American architect Frank Gehry has presented Sydney with a new Opera House- The new University of Technology in the aging dull, suburb of Ultimo will get something from Dali’s dreams.
Architect Frank Gehry.
Architect Frank Gehry.
The “Treehouse”, actually called the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building, is a crinkly and quirky incarnation of an architectural principle which has been trying to be born for a while. It looks like it's straight out of someone's visual wishful thinking. A multifaceted edifice, the Treehouse has wrinkles and crinkles.
Well, who needed straight lines, anyway? The design defies the unspeakably boring layer cakes and sickeningly unimaginative visual building-swill Sydney has inflicted on itself in recent decades. “Development” there has been, architecture there has not been, to any noticeable extent.
As a relief from the ubiquitous fecal eyesores, $150 million is a small enough price to pay. Gehry has hit the jackpot with a riot of shapes which really say “Enough of the shoeboxes”. This is a cathedral of shapes, a sort of dichotomy of ideas which provide a lot of food for thought for anyone in the multi-billion dollar Australian building industry.
In a way the building has a type of symbolism, intentional or otherwise. The other face of the Treehouse is the exact opposite, a group of flying building faces, a vision in modernism. The old shapes are melting next to it. Very apt.
Inside the building is some strong, solid, and practical architecture. This is a college, and it’s designed to be a college. Designed for the UTS business school, it’s a grouping of ideas which should encourage anyone to think about layouts for the future.
Sydney is Australia’s oldest city. Unfortunately it looks like it. The grimy legacy of the past is long overdue for a makeover, or preferably extinction. Central and Ultimo are a bad joke, architecturally. A series of leftovers from the 50s, 60s, and a few “modern” buildings which were old ideas in the 1940s litter the area like insults. From the Meccano Land of Darling Harbor south to a timid-looking suburb called Glebe, the place is a museum.
Gehry’s building is uncompromising, and that’s long overdue in the comatose inner city architecture. The heart of Australia is in this area. Do you see a single damn thing that says the country is even trying to be something more than a shopping mall? It's about bloody time Sydney started looking like what it is- One of the world's great cities.
Thank you, Mr. Gehry. Now, if someone would like to tear down the rest of this garbage and replace with real buildings…?