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To Live and Design in L.A.

Architecture firm Oyler Wu makes its mark.

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WWD Scoop issue 09/29/2008
“Pendulum Place is a highly intelligent device that operates at many levels,” says Mohamed Sharif, the president of the Los Angeles Forum. “Even when inactive, the structure holds its own as a strange autonomous framework.”

The project, which was designed and built in a matter of three months and opened in September, is a small one, considering the architects are also working on an entire building in Taiwan. Their Taipei tower is for mixed used that incorporates retail on the ground floors with apartments on the upper floors. Currently being redesigned and enlarged after their client acquired an adjacent plot of land, the Taipei building reflects how Oyler and Wu can create  a design that is a synthesis of intensely dense and urban while reflecting some of the more pleasing aspects of living within a city. Rather than being locked into glass cubes, each apartment features a balcony that is screened on the exterior by a movable metal mesh screen. The building feels like it comprises constantly shifting volumes—rather than a huge chockablock mass.

Last year, Oyler Wu became one of 100 architects from around the world invited by Ai Weiwei and Herzog & de Meuron to design a villa in Ordos, a remote city in Inner Mongolia. In a way, the building is a perfect example of the duo’s talents at making a typically suburban building type— the single-family home—fit into a dense setting where dramatic buildings are set close to each other. The house creates a more conscientious relation to the landscape by situating most of the structure in the ground, as the building’s concrete shell gracefully makes as little of a visual impact on the landscape as possible.

How does a firm adapt to designing for such disparate places as Los Angeles, Taiwan and Inner Mongolia? “Trying to understand the context [of Ordos] was difficult,” says Oyler. “We asked ourselves, ‘How do we design to fit a local culture?’ It’s hard to understand until we realized that we’re designing for international culture. That has been the major difference.”
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