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Monday, October 03, 2011

SCI-Arc Graduation Pavilion

SCI-Arc Graduation Pavilion in Los Angeles, California by Oyler Wu Collaborative, 2011

In 2000 the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) moved to its current location just southeast of downtown Los Angeles. It occupies the 1907 Sante Fe Freight Depot, a roughly 1,250-foot-long (380m) concrete building fronting, appropriately, Sante Fe Avenue on one side and a large parking lot on the other side. The latter is the site of experimentation and construction for the architecture school, not just a place for cars. It was the construction site for this year's Solar Decathlon, which the school developed with CalTech, and annually it is the home of a temporary graduation pavilion designed and built by SCI-Arc faculty with students.

This year's pavilion was designed by Dwayne Oyler and Jenny Wu, aka Oyler Wu Collaborative, with their studetns. The duo's work exhibits a lightness that is countered by a structural complexity, a combination that results in daring designs with a layered network of pieces (be it wood, metal, or even rope) held in a seemingly magical, floating tension. Such is the case with this pavilion, yet it is a leap in scale from their Pendulum Plane, Suburban Intervention, and other small-scale interventions. It is basically a backdrop and canopy for the graduation ceremony, but it elevates the ceremony into something even more special.
Based on a conventional knitting technique, like that used in the making of a sweater, the pavilion exploits the malleability of this technique as it stretches to conform to the three-dimensional shape of the structure. -Oyler Wu Collaborative
Called "Netscape," the pavilion, which seats 900 people, consists of "45,000 linear feet of knitted rope, 6,000 linear feet of tube steel, and 3,000 square feet of fabric shade louvers." The architects further state, not surprisingly, that the "design of the project involved an elaborate back and forth between digital and analog systems of investigation." In particular Nous Engineering analyzed the tension of the nets using computers, but large models also "provided a means of studying the behavior of the grids and their resulting geometries."

The overall geometry is symmetrical in plan and elevation, but less so in the smaller parts and in one's experience of the whole. The three materials -- rope, tube steel, fabric shades -- work in concert yet they read as distinct entities with their own purpose. The steel structure leans and extends to create a soaring space, while the rope is knitted to become a dense yet porous plane up high. Lastly, the shades are supported by the first two but angled according to the sun at the time of the ceremony; as well, the wind lets them billow independently of the structure. It's natural to want to try to describe what the pavilion looks like, to strive for metaphors, but I think it's best to see it as the sum of these three parts, a synthesis that works through its contrary reconciliation of lightness and monumentality. In turn it makes the graduation ceremony a grand affair.

Project Credits:
  • Principal Architects: Dwayne Oyler, Jenny Wu
  • Project Team, Oyler Wu Collaborative: Nick Aho, Chris Eskew, Matt Evans, Andy Hammer, Michael Ho, Richard Lucero, Sanjay Sukie, Yaohua Wang
  • Project Team, SCI-Arc: Jacob Aboudou, Casey Benito, Paul Cambon, Julian Daly, Hung Diep, Jesus Guerrero, Clifford Ho, Duygun Inal, Mina Jun, David Kim, Noorey Kim, Jacques Lesec, Zachery Main, Tyler McMartin, Richard Nam, Kevin Nguyen, Manuel Oh, Carlos Rodriquez, Bryant Suh, Kyle von Hasseln, Liz von Hasseln, Jie Yang
  • Engineering: Nous Engineering (Principal Engineer: Matt Melnyk)

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