We have now completed seven built projects in the six years our office has existed largely because we’ve taken it upon ourselves to make projects happen when no one else would. This is not to say that we are only doing it in order to realize our work—we use the process to better inform and develop our designs. I think the reward of understanding how to work with a material and, in turn, innovate through this intimate knowledge of a process, is what allows our practice to remain experimental. With each project, it is our direct responsibility to consider the optimal way to build the work, to simplify the process, and to create efficient fabrication logics—as opposed to simply passing it off on a contractor. We believe that this experience brings with it a more comprehensive knowledge that ultimately better informs those future projects that we don’t have a direct hand in constructing.
For this project, the key strategy for accuracy and efficiency involves the building of steel "profiles." These "profiles" refer to the series of repetitive uprights that occur every fourteen inches. Although they are built flat, the "profiles" contain the majority of the information necessary for establishing the overall geometry. We begin by cutting 1/2-inch steel square tubes into smaller sections and laying them out on the grid. With our fabrication drawings on the side, it is very clear to our crew how to place the steel tubes on the grid. We then measure and cut the ends of the tubes to the exact angle of the intersection and tape the tubes onto the platform. This allows my partner/master welder, Dwayne, to forge all of the pieces together. The final step in the making of the profiles is to grind down the welds to create a smooth finish. With everything done on the platform, we were able to make flat and planar profiles that are dimensionally accurate. While the process seems relatively straight forward, the complexity of the profiles makes the fabrication process long and physically demanding. We typically work 11 hours per day, and without true commitment from our staff, we would never be able to pull this off.
I do want to say a few words about our staff. All of our staff and interns are either students or former students at Southern California Institute of Architecture (Sci-Arc). We are able to bring on board talented and enthusiastic young architects who share with us the love for architecture and bring their passion to work every day. We would not be able to do all of the things that we do without their efforts and dedication.
Next week we will begin to three-dimensionalize the work by erecting the profiles vertically and begin to fabricate the steel pieces that connect one profile to another.
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.