Frank Gehry: Frank as ever

Frank Gehry: Frank as ever

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Frank gehry: frank as ever

At 85, Gehry has completed one of his finest buildings, the Dr Chau Chak Wing facility in Sydney. In laconic mood, the architect talks candidly to Edwin Heathcote about the role of art in his work, the dangers of architectural egotism, and why he used to think Frank Lloyd Wright was a fascist

Frank Gehry is wearing a suit and a tie. It looks a little odd. I’ve never seen him in anything other than a T-shirt and a slouchy jacket. “It’s a one-time thing,” he says, adjusting the tie. “Enjoy it now, tomorrow it’ll be gone.”

The garb is in homage to the setting – a business school – and the inevitable corporate milieu that accompanies it. But this is not the dull box of the typical corporate institution. Instead, it is an undulating, crumpled brick building that looks like it’s been caught mid-collapse during a particularly severe earthquake. Or, perhaps, as locals relish in describing it, like a crumpled brown paper bag. It is an astonishing structure, one that recalls the structural bravura of Félix Candela, perhaps even Gaudí. It has an exuberance and a sense of movement and restlessness that also recall the finest of Gehry’s own work.

Opening soon after the huge, operatic and overblown Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris’s Bois de Boulogne, it comes as a bit of a relief. Where the latter appears to have been a building without a brief – a glass folly in a park, in which the confluence of corporate money, bad art, big egos and a seemingly unlimited budget makes the whole thing a little unsettling – the Dr Chau Chak Wing building at Sydney’s University of Technology feels like a piece of real city. It’s a building that imbibes the brick context of industrial and educational buildings and digests them, along with the global anonymity of the glass towers in the adjacent central business district, to throw up a solid, surprising and original structure that anchors the creative quarter emerging along Sydney’s slightly anaemic version of the High Line, the “Goods Line”. []

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