Book Review: Pendulum Plane

Pendulum Plane: Oyler Wu Collaborative by Oyler Wu Collaborative, edited by Todd Gannon
L. A. Forum for Architecture and Urban Design, 2009
Paperback, 96 pages

At a 2008 panel discussion on The Future of Architectural Publishing, one response to a question from an audience member, "What do you know doesn't work?," was "books on individual buildings." Luckily another one of the panelists countered this position, pointing out the past successes of some book-length case studies on single buildings. I say luckily because I'm a big fan of books that document, present, analyze and critique one building; I agree that they can work well. A magazine article, a portion of a monograph, or a blog post are comparatively lacking in respect when compared to the huge effort of designing and constructing a building. In that sense, this pamphlet-size case study for Oyler Wu Collaborative's small-scale storefront intervention for the LA Forum's new headquarters on Hollywood Boulevard is just the right size: small like the project itself, but big enough to convey the multitude of ideas present in the project.

Architects Dwayne Oyler and Jenny Wu won a 2008 two-stage competition with a proposal that falls somewhere between the spatial fullness and serene bouyancy of the other two finalists, F-lab and Kuth/Ranieri, according to Mohamed Sharif's introduction. The winning design proposes an intervention that inhabits the ceiling and acts as an armature for exhibition displays, important given that the Hollywood Boulevard space is shared with the Woodbury School of Architecture. This occurs via a hinging of the aluminum pipe structure, one of the many aspects of the design and construction documented here with sketches, models, renderings, architectural drawings, and photographs. A conversation between Wes Jones and Oyler and Wu, and an essay by Todd Gannon round out the information packed into the book's 96 pages. Gannon's essay is particularly insightful, situating the design within the historical de-emphasis of the ceiling in favor of vertical surfaces, walls of glass and other materials.

The complex, alien-like intervention appears to be generated within a computer environment, especially given the renderings that accompanied the drawings in the competition boards. But the models and sketches complicate this assumption, one that is deflated in the conversation with Wes Jones, where Oyler and Wu situate the physical models above the virtual ones in terms of importance in shaping the design. Here the computer's presence is in realizing the armature's complex but repeating forms, whose bent corners simplify construction (fewer complicated and time-consuming aluminum welds) but also give the piece its particular presence: a dense overlay of lines and curves, ever-changing and challenging our preconceptions about what an architectural intervention should be.

The intervention fits into Oyler Wu's portfolio alongside two other aluminum installations (one at SCI-Arc, where they both teach, and one at Materials & Applications) that predate Pendulum Plane. These investigations activate their respective environments in similar yet unique ways, using structure to create a canopy, stairs and a ceiling, architectural elements typically constructed of planar materials. The most recent design throws the kinetic into the mix, extending the effects of the previous projects but making one hope this isn't the last we've seen of Oyler Wu's aluminum experiments.


  1. Oyler Wu's Sciarc Gallery Exhibition "Live Wire" can easily be seen as a continuation of this project


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