Frank Gehry’s Brown Paper Bag

It has been nicknamed the Brown Paper Bag after the governor general Peter Cosgrove called it the most beautiful squashed paper bag he had ever seen at the opening of the building recently. Frank Gehry’s only building to be built in Australia is probably one of his most criticized. I haven’t spoken to anyone who likes the building yet and it really doesn’t do much for me either. As much as I want to like it, I just can’t.

The Dr Chau Chak Wing Building in Sydney was built to house the University of Technology’s new business school department. Eighty-five year old Gehry says that 98% of what gets built today is shit and from what I have heard, 98% of the people who have seen the new Sydney building think it also fits into the shit category. I still haven’t seen it in the flesh yet but from what I have seen I’m no fan of the 180 million dollar building.

Frank Gehry’s reply to the critics of his building is a middle finger.. charming old fella.

Frank Gehry building in Sydney, Australia.

I think this is one of the more flattering views of the building but you won’t see this view unless you’re a drone or you commute regularly by helicopter.

I’m not sold on the Gehry windows. The 320,000 custom designed bricks don’t do much to save the project.

Interior of the Frank Gehry building in Sydney, Australia.

A detail view of the brickwork and windows of the Gehry building.

Elizabeth Farrelly of the Sydney Morning Herald said Frank Gehry was the Kim Kardashian of architecture: all curves and no content. I don’t think the comment works with this particular building though as there’s nothing sexy about it at all.

What do you think of it?

About Dion

Australian artist and observer of things.. all kinds of things. I like a wide variety of art, from the weird and wonderful to the bold and beautiful.. and everything in between.


  1. David eric says:

    For the most part, I agree. The building seems to be a very interesting idea that was not quite carried through to a point of artistic bloom. However, I have to give credit to the guy for, if nothing else, attempting to construct something interesting. When the windows are fully blue or have some reflected clouds they are quite striking and probably the most beautiful aspect of the building, especially against the flat tan color. But, when the windows are black or blank, the beauty disappears completely. Also, the roof (all three sections) are where the architecture falls apart. If one is to build a structure with this kind of courage, go all the way. The sudden cut-off at the top of the buildings is very ugly. As one of my mentors told me: I’d rather see you go down in flames attempting to do something interesting, than succeed at playing it safe. In that sense/context, I do like the building, but it doesn’t feel like an artistic triumph.

    • Yeah I would rather see an interesting building fail than a cookie-cut building succeed. And I just think the windows look like an afterthought, like they’re stuck on at the last minute. As much as I want it to be, it’s not a building that I would go too far out of my way to see.

  2. Donald Frazell says:

    Stainless steel saved Gehry from ridicule and slipping into eternal irrelevance. His stuff ehre looks like it is about to fall apart except for the Stainless steel which is really just mediocre sculpture attached to the box box within, or lots of wasted space inside and bad proportions as it is all about the architect and neither functionality or the ability to add on or improvise from. The Balboa building is criticized as a horrible place to view art, which is definitely secondary to the church of Gehry it is meant to be.
    The day of hubris and Starchitects is over, but his branding is still going as he does a quick sketch and has his minions do the work. His huge work place is right behind my sis in laws home in WLA. And the Firm is doing the new Jazz Bakery where I used to show my work. That wont happen now as it is never allowed others to participate in the design, it is all about him.

  3. I like his Bilbao building.. like you said though, it probably works better as a really big sculpture than it does as a place to show art. It’s a building I would go out of my way to see. I’ll probably drive past the paper bag building next time I’m in Sydney but I’m expecting to go “eww” rather than “wow”


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