International Travel

Tue, 10 Oct, 2017Danielle McCarthy

Exploring the art and architecture of Sydney’s Ultimo

Exploring the art and architecture of Sydney’s Ultimo

Robyn Kennedy loves to explore and photograph Sydney and surrounds. Her blog Life Out & About has become a passion, sharing ideas for outings in and around Sydney - charming gardens, bush walks, art galleries and inspiring places to eat!

An amazing transformation has taken place in the Ultimo area over the last 20 years. From derelict warehouses and industrial sites to a vibrant community of character cafes, restored terraces, art galleries and ‘out there’ Frank Gehry architecture! Also, close by in Chippendale is the well known White Rabbit Gallery, housing the largest and most significant collection of contemporary Chinese art.

Where: Sydney Inner City –2km SW of CBD | Allow: 1/2 day
Getting there: Buses – Trains 10 mins. walk from Central Station
Also see: Chinese Gardens of FriendshipSydney CBD

What to See & Do

Ultimo sits neatly between Chinatown to the east and Glebe village to the west, with it’s main thoroughfare Harris St connecting it to the character suburb of Pyrmont to the North. Being surrounded by ‘old Sydney’ you will find plenty to explore. Whenever we visit the Ultimo area we find something new, it’s the wandering and discovering that make an outing to this area such fun. Here are a few suggestions for places to visit…

1. Dr Chau Chak Wing Building – UTS

Dr Chau Chak Wing Building at UTS - Architect Frank Gehry

Ultimo – Dr Chau Chak Wing Building at UTS – Architect Frank Gehry – distorted reflections

Just 10 minutes walk from Central Station and you can start your outing at the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building at UTS, a Frank Gehry special. We visited during the UTS holiday time, so were fortunate to have the place pretty much to ourselves.

The famous architect Frank Gehry has designed this extraordinary warped complex… it all started with a scribble on a napkin! Constructed of brick and glass, yet all buckled and twisted. The complex is often likened to a squashed paper bag I find it bold and inspiring with it’s wonky brickwork and the many angled glass windows capturing the surrounding city scape.

The organic interior staircase constructed of highly polished stainless steel creates amazing distorted reflections, and I love reflections!  With a stroke of luck we met an enthusiastic employee who was keen to give us a spontaneous tour of the interior, seeing places that most would not have access to.

Dr Chau Chak Wing Building at UTS - Frank Gehry

Ultimo – Dr Chau Chak Wing Building at UTS – Architect Frank Gehry

2. White Rabbit Gallery

White Rabbit Gallery - exhibition changes every 6 months

White Rabbit Gallery – exhibition changes every 6 months

Just a 10 minute walk from the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building in Ultimo, or from Central Station. The White Rabbit Gallery in Chippendale is a must see.  The gallery houses the world’s largest and most significant collection of contemporary Chinese art, it is impressive! I’ve visited a number of times and have always come away excited and inspired with what contemporary Chinese artists are doing.

A great place to relax with a cup of tea and snack is the gallery Tea House, set in a tranquil street with a delightful display of hanging bird cages. They serve a wide range of Chinese and Taiwanese teas.

3. More Ultimo Architecture

Ultimo Brick Affair

Ultimo – Brick Affair

Ultimo - UTS Campus

Ultimo – UTS Campus

While you’re in the area it’s well worth exploring all around the UTS complex. There are a number of interesting buildings, not so wonky as Frank Gehry’s, but certainly worth a pic or two.

4. Chinese Garden of Friendship

Chinese Garden of Friendship Tea House

If you have time the Chinese Garden of Friendship is only 15 minutes walk from UTS or White Rabbit Gallery. Discover a hidden oasis of ornate pavilions, exotic plants, ponds, waterfalls and rocky outcrops.

5. Eat & Drink

Cafe's on Glebe Pt Road

Glebe – Cafe’s on Glebe Pt Road

Ultimo and Chippendale are surrounded by possibilities for eating and drinking. If you don’t happen to stumble across a little café or restaurant that appeals, head over to the lively village of Glebe… with its many eateries and small bars there will be something to satisfy. For example, on the southern end of Glebe Pt Road, not far from Broadway are the Clipper Café and La Banette Patisserie. At the northern end of Glebe Pt Road is the fabulous Glebe Point Diner.

If you fancy something Asian, you’re in the perfect location. Chinatown is only a 10-15 minutes walk from Ultimo and the White Rabbit Gallery.  I love to catch the evening buzz with the soft glow of Chinese lanterns and inviting restaurants.