A Visual Apology

Central Park, Broadway, Sydney
One Central Park, Broadway, Sydney

My bus stop stands opposite the vertical gardens at Central Park, Sydney, bringing green relief to an otherwise busy locale on Broadway not far from the bus and train interchange. The One Central Park building won many awards including the 2014 LEAF Award for its innovative design. I admire it briefly as I disembark from my bus and then glance slightly amused, but more bemused at the defiant UTS Tower standing opposite.

UTS Tower, Broadway, Sydney
UTS Tower, Broadway, Sydney

Bad architecture is in the end as much a failure of psychology as of design. It is an example expressed through materials of the same tendencies which in other domains will lead us to marry the wrong people, choose inappropriate jobs and book unsuccessful holidays: the tendency not to understand who we are and what will satisfy us.

– Alain de Botton, The Architecture of Happiness

If buildings could talk I might hear a quite apology as I look upon the UTS Tower and its surrounds. Juxtaposed are three state-of-the-art buildings; the FEIT building, home to UTS Faculty of Engineering and IT,

FEIT building, UTS, Broadway, Sydney
FEIT building, UTS, Broadway, Sydney

the Faculty of Science and Graduate School of Health Building,

Faculty of Science and Graduate School of Health Building
Faculty of Science and Graduate School of Health Building

and the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building. It is fitting that Frank Gehry, attributed for describing the UTS Tower as Sydney’s “uggliest” building, should design a marvellous answer to the needs of learning and reflection. Based on the idea of a tree house(1), the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building visually invokes an inviting and cosy sanctuary in what was once the dingy back streets of Ultimo.

Dr Chau Chak Wing Building by Frank Gehry
Dr Chau Chak Wing Building by Frank Gehry

As a regular visitor to this precinct I would like to say thank you. Thank you to the town planners and architects for reminding me what is important…

We depend on our surroundings obliquely to embody the moods and ideas we respect and then to remind us of them. We look to our buildings to hold us, like a kind of psychological mould, to a helpful vision of ourselves. We arrange around us material forms which communicate to us what we need ā€” but are at constant risk of forgetting what we need ā€” within.

– Alain de Botton, The Architecture of Happiness

Notes:

(1) “Frank Gehry’s UTS Dr Chau Chak Wing Building opened: ‘The most beautiful squashed brown paper bag ever seen'”, Jill Power, SMH, Feb 3, 2015

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