Dwayne Oyler and Jenny Wu, partners at Los Angeles-based Oyler Wu Collaborative, recently completed an unusual project. The program was seemingly straightforward: create a temporary sales center on the future site of a high-rise residential tower in Taipei, also designed by the firm. The catch? Because they wanted to repurpose two existing structures rather than build the sales center from scratch, the developer restricted Oyler Wu Collaborative’s intervention to the application of seven-inch-thick cladding.
Oyler and Wu weren’t having it. “We really wanted to do more than seven inches,” Wu said. “That’s not enough to do anything spatial.” They went back to the developer and asked for access to the second and third floors of the buildings. After all, the sales center itself would occupy only the top stories of the complex. The builders said yes. “Our developer is really pretty amazing,” Wu said. “He was really open-minded. It seems a little strange to them, but they said, let’s do it.”
The architects transformed the existing buildings, a messy conglomeration of architectural styles, into a single volume. But in place of the blank box the developer had envisioned, Oyler and Wu created a dynamic exchange between solids and voids. A massive, asymmetrical cutout they call a “spatial ribbon” snakes from an aperture in the lobby to the building’s upper floors, exploding the traditional relationship between inside and out, and framing views of the city to the north and west.
Undulating surfaces of fabric, rope, and steel frame flow through the cutout voids and onto the building’s facade, until they reach the top story and its horizontal band of windows. Oyler and Wu, whose portfolio of art/architecture installations include everything from a series of graduation pavilions for SCI-Arc to Taipei’s own Anemone, usually do their own design fabrication. But such a hands-on approach wasn’t feasible in the case of the sales tower, so the firm turned to an Internet-age solution. Oyler and Wu created step-by-step instructional videos and uploaded them to YouTube for the on-site fabricators to view. “They actually even improved on our technique, it was really interesting to see,” Wu said. “When I went to visit they were really proud to show us what they’ve done and how they do it.”
Just as the Taipei sales center was designed as a liminal space, a temporary placeholder between what was and what will be, so the project may represent a moment of transition for Oyler Wu Collaborative. “A lot of people have asked how we transition from installations into larger buildings,” Wu said. The sales center is one answer to that question. Oyler added: “One of the things that we’ve been talking about the last couple of years is a lot of the techniques that we’re doing on the [sales center’s] facade. We did a couple of installations with rope and fabric; all were techniques we would experiment with applying to bigger buildings.”
Oyler and Wu expect to break ground on their permanent tower, Taipei Tower 2.0, within the next several months.