We began designing the project digitally, primarily because the digital model allowed us to work with complex three-dimensional geometry and to quickly work through many iterations and variations to come to the final design. Yet, from our experience, we’ve learned that while things tend to work out quite perfectly inside the frictionless, gravity-free digital screen, the transition of digital design work into physical form isn’t quite as smooth as you might imagine. It is often critical to build large-scale physical models to simulate the construction process and test material properties in order to troubleshoot any major design issues.
For the past week, we have been building a large-scale model out of polystyrene and yarn to simulate the steel frame and rope. The idea is to string one piece of yarn that runs from the top frame of each vertical unit to the bottom frame. Almost immediately, we encountered two major problems. We realized that as soon as we started stringing the yarn, the loop that holds the string to the frame would not hold due to the fact that the path of the loop does not always keep the yarn in tension. In fact, it would only stay in place when the frame is entirely filled up with yarn.
So as a solution (at least for the model), we decided to pre-loop one length of the frame first with yarn then run a continuous piece of yarn from the top to the bottom frame. We hope that for the actual installation, we will not have to pre-loop but, rather, use either a clamp or zip tie to temporarily hold it in place. The second problem is one that mainly exists in the model. Due to the size of the model, we have a hard time getting our fingers around the frame to put the yarn in. We had to use a combination of a sewing needle, which "sews" the yarn to the frame, and a handmade metal hook made out of wire to quickly loop the frames.
The model has been incredibly time consuming. At this pace, it could take nearly as much time as the full-scale installation! As our deadline is rapidly approaching, we’ve decided to overlap the modeling and the fabrication process, allowing the model to stay just one step ahead of the full scale design decisions. Next week we will begin building a platform/jig to facilitate the making of the steel frame.
Jenny Wu is a partner at the Los Angeles based design firm Oyler Wu Collaborative, which she started in 2004 with Dwayne Oyler. The office has been published globally and is recognized for its experimentation in design, material research, and fabrication. Their work straddles between two scales: small scale experimental installations as well as large scale building projects. Their recent projects include "reALIze," an art installation based on the face of Muhammad Ali (designed in collaboration with Michael Kalish), "Anemone," an architectural installation made with 60,000 rubber tubing in Taipei, Netscape, a temporary pavilion made of nine miles of knitted rope for Sci-Arc (Southern California Institute of Architecture) graduation, and a 16 story residential tower in Taipei, Taiwan. She is a design faculty at Sci-Arc and received her BA from Columbia University and MArch from Harvard University.