Oyler Wu

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August 26, 2008. Isn’t this what competitions are about: to set parameters hoping that one of the contestants will exceed them?

Oyler Wu Collaborative’s Pendulum Plane proposal for the latest LA Forum for Architecture and Urban Design competition has done just that. In response to a brief asking for a gallery display system that could be stored away on site, Dwayne Oyler and Jenny Wu suggested a network of 16 welded aluminum units that now lines the ceiling throughout the 40×15-ft. space—and will do so permanently. What made permanence not just acceptable but appealing to the Forum was the convertibility of the system from mere ceiling liner to space organizer to wall or mid-room display, using large and small hinged frames that pivot down from the horizontal position into a vertical one. (Lowering multiple consecutive frames creates a room partition.) I.D. asked Dwayne Oyler what made LA Forum convert to the new idea. oylerwu.com, laforum.org, burohappold.com

What was the starting point for your concept?

Because the space is shared between Woodbury University and the Los Angeles Forum, the competition brief asked for something that could be moved from the space and stored while not in use by the Forum. Our initial starting point was very much a reaction to the project brief in that we felt that it was not exactly the right approach. We felt that anything of real architectural value within the space should be an integral and constant part of the experience of the space. The challenge came in considering how to introduce a system that would have the greatest spatial and functional impact but still allow for various functions (i.e. pin-up space for Woodbury). The idea of using the ceiling was the right combination of 1) maximizing the spatial experience within the space and 2) providing something that could be tucked away when required.

What determined the form of the system?

The form of the system is a pretty even negotiation of the required mechanisms of the piece, its structural performance, and the experiential field that we intended to create. Although the units are modular and symmetrical in their overall configuration, it was our intention to create something that, with a little manipulation, could be experienced in a totally different way. It is sometimes simply a ceiling, sometimes more of an enclosure, and at other times tactile and engaging.

What role did Buro Happold play in this project?

They played an essential role in helping us understand how the piece would perform structurally, and that helped to shape the elements. Their interest is in much more than simply sizing members or detailing connection. Like most architects I know, they are interested in experimenting, challenging conventions, and in using every tool at their disposal in that pursuit.

How and what does this kind of project add to your architecture practice? Well, for one, working with an institution like the LA Forum has been important to us. We’re interested in the dialogue that surrounds work in Los Angeles today, and that has allowed us to share in those discussions.

In terms of the work itself, it has allowed us to experiment with kinetics in a way that we think enhances what we have already done. Also, like much of our other built work, this was a project that we built ourselves. With each new project, we try to take on something new from a design standpoint- in this case, the challenges ranged from precise mass production and the physics involved in counter-weighting this deceptively simple system to accurate pipe bending.