Oyler Wu Collaborative
Columbus, OH, USA
Dwayne Oyler Jenny Wu
Matthew Melnyk, Nous Engineering (Structural Engineer) Elizabeth Woolf, Katahdin Engineering LLC (Structural Engineer)
The ambitions for the pavilion reflect an approach to the built environment – preferring ambiguities over spectacle, inviting your attention towards the intimate details. A continuation of complex issues and histories, The Exchange cites the legacy of Saarinen with a design intervention in step with the heritage of the place. As Saarinen developed his architectural language after 1950, his interest in the role of complex geometries as they related to his modernist ideals were amplified. Emphasizing clean modern lines, these designs integrated building tectonics and structural elements to penetrate voluptuous mass and introduce poetic lighting effects. As an early expression of a technical solution, this became a reoccurring gesture in the Miller House and Dulles International Airport and defined one of his signature aesthetics. This misalignment -of one tectonic element sliding past the other- allows light to filter through the open cracks and into the space below, giving a lightweight quality. Inspired by Eero Saarinen's oeuvre, along with an analysis of the public plaza, the design completes the existing canopy form to define an implied volume, reinterpreting contrasting tectonic themes of frame and solid. This relationship uses a "loose fit" placement of solid elements within carved voids, expressing the plaza’s negative space through a connective interplay of suspended objects. The intention of this strategy is to produce the sense that the pavilion is simultaneously brand new and that it has always been there.
Designed as a part of Exhibit Columbus, the inaugural citywide design festival, The Exchange continues the heritage of design culture dramatically shaping the city of Columbus, Indiana, since its famous Modernist initiative. Stimulated by the local patronage of Cummins Inc., and Cummins Foundation founder J. Irwin Miller, Columbus features a unique concentration of architectural marvels by founders of the movement. The Irwin Conference Center, formerly the Irwin Union Bank and Trust, by Eero Saarinen draws from this influence; diverting from traditional approaches and transforming the banking hall into an open, glass pavilion. Built in 1954, it is best identified by its nine domes, believed to have been designed in reference to the Honey Locust Tree found throughout Columbus. This type of formal shaping and a high degree of spatial intent marks an interest that grew to become especially pronounced in his later works, differentiating Saarinen from his colleagues who, at the time, were more interested in pure, minimalist expression. Saarinen’s design challenges the assumptions of its customers, evoking a curiosity and disbelief that captivated public attention. More than developing a new language, The Exchange redefines the boundaries of the bank canopies with a design vernacular that foregrounds the principles of its predecessors. To reinforce continuity to the plaza, the design maintains a visual connection to the bank and Cummins Park producing a tension between the past and present. Reigniting curiosity through experimental, progressive design, The Exchange acts as a new focal point that contributes to the culture of Columbus as an extension of its history.
The pavilion provides a range of porosities, from semi-private spaces to open areas shaped by the nuanced spatial containment of the completed geometries. Composed of a complex mixture of volumetric walls and systems of intricate framework, the space is further enlivened with new areas of engagement and new points of destination. Existing benches extend into a series of walls and overhead elements, incorporating the canopy with seating below for community gatherings. The resulting space cultivates moments of intimacy while preserving an openness that links it to its surroundings. In contrast to a traditional plaza between buildings, a sense of place develops from a single unifying design strategy, marking it as a public destination. Through this series of urban encounters, the plaza manifests the living laboratory of the architectural community in Columbus.