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SCI_Arc Gallery Installation, 2008

Los Angeles, CA


Motivated by the desire to occupy the SCI-Arc gallery in a way that exploits the spatial potential of the existing venue, this Oyler Wu Collaborative installation argues for an expanded relationship between tectonic expression and functional performance.   The installation proposes a vertical circulation system linking the floor level of the gallery to the catwalk above.  This circulation system, a.k.a. a stair, is equally concerned with its function, use, and performance as it is its visual and experiential qualities. The stair establishes a new form of movement through the space that challenges the closed nature of the gallery as a hermetic space for objects, effectively integrating it into the daily operations of the school.


With the intention of bridging multiple architectural ideas within a single architectural element, the stair exploits a tectonic language appropriate to that objective.  In conventional systems of vertical circulation, numerous components are assembled together, with each performing a specific function, for example, guardrails provided along the perimeter, handrail attached to adjacent walls or guardrails, tread and risers for stair surfaces, and a stringer for structural support.  Furthermore, these individual components often act independently of systems meant to shape architectural experience.  This segregated tectonic formula leaves little room for consideration of the kind of fluid spatial and tectonic implications that might result from a more collective consideration of the parts.  Constructed of approximately 2400 linear feet of aluminum tubing and rods, the stair employs a combination of complex loops that perform a variety of tasks as they merge together to form the necessary stair elements.  Similarly, the stair incorporates faceted perforated aluminum panels of two different thicknesses to create a continuous, semi-transparent surface from stair tread to guardrail to canopy.

Often relegated to pure functional use, the fundamental architectural element presented in this installation is a testing ground for weaving together a multitude of architectural ideas, ranging from the manipulation of light, geometry, and structure to, of course, vertical circulation.  Conceived of first as a series of light modulators, each architectural element requires a progressive manipulation in order to negotiate the required performance criteria.  With the length of the gallery and the size of the treads providing a scale to one side of the intervention, the opposite side reaches up toward the clerestory windows at a dramatically different scale.   As the stair moves upward, the geometry takes on a transformative quality that pushes the structural limits of the material, relying on the built-up density to carry the load.  As much as this density of material is meant to provide structural support, it is recognized that it is within these areas that their performance is most easily forgotten, giving way to the spaces they define.   It is at this conceptual intersection that the installation is intended to provide a more expanded definition of architectural elements, one that knows no boundaries between the simple functions they perform, and the more intangible results that they evoke.

Project Credits:


Principal Architects:

Dwayne Oyler

Jenny Wu


Project Leaders:

Ming Jian Huang

Matt Evans


Design Team:

Fayez Ahdab

Phillip Cameron

Ming Jian Huang

Huy Le

Erik Mathiesen



Matthew Melnyk, Buro Happold



Scott Mayoral, Joshua White

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