A Grand Experiment
Oyler Wu Collaborative wove substance into structure at Materials & Applications in Los Angeles
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 1/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
The word that best describes the ethereal installation soaring over Materials & Applications, an outdoor exhibition space in Los Angeles, would hardly be dense. Yet Density Fields is the title of this extreme cantilever by Oyler Wu Collaborative. For the last 10 years, architect Dwayne Oyler has doodled hundreds of sketches with closely packed lines, intrigued by the way they produce a sense of depth. "The lines create an experience," adds designer Jenny Wu, the other half of the husband-wife partnership.
When the nonprofit M&A commissioned the couple to transform its 1,000-square-foot courtyard with an installation that would pull in people from the surrounding Silver Lake community, a cantilever "came immediately to mind," Oyler says. So did the notion of lines starting from a single point before splaying out toward the site's boundaries to fill it in with tightly interwoven lines. Modeling came next—in styrene, followed by digital versions. "We knew we could do it with pure muscle, using aluminum supports," Wu continues. But that solution wouldn't have produced the envisioned lightness of being. Then the couple hit upon the idea of polypropylene ropes, their tension stabilizing a framework 32 feet from corner to corner and 18 feet high at the peak. A structural engineer confirmed that the cantilever would stand.
Stability wasn't the only concern. Woodworking pros, Oyler and Wu were neophytes with metalwork. Now they're proficient welders, thanks to the 70 joints they completed in the metal shop at SCI-Arc, where they teach drawing and design. Once Oyler, Wu, and four former undergraduate and graduate students got the tubular aluminum framework up, supported by scaffolding, the team embarked on the weaving process: taking bands of polypropylene rope, anchoring them at the base of the structure, and threading them through via an average of 10 contact points, before returning to the base.
Among the project's many admirers is Eric Owen Moss, SCI-Arc's director. Next up for Oyler and Wu is an installation at the school's gallery.