July 29, 2016

Oyler Wu Collaborative Transforms a 1928 Los Angeles Bank into a New Home for 3D Systems Culinary Lab

What exactly goes on at 3D Systems Culinary Lab? A mash-up of food, design, and 3-D printing, “an emerging ecosystem for digital food creation,” according to 3D Systems culinary creative director Liz von Hasseln. This Los Angeles facility is where innovative chefs and mixologists can meet and collaborate to develop, for example, floral components for intricate seasonal desserts or unusual cocktail garnishes. Reduced to the basics, the process entails feeding water and such powderized ingredients as dehydrated mushrooms into 3D Systems’s proprietary printers—please don’t ask for further explanation. Luckily none was necessary for Oyler Wu Collaborative’s husband-wife principals, Dwayne Oyler and Jenny Wu, particularly since Wu designs jewelry that’s 3-D printed.

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What we can elaborate on is the lab’s physical attributes. The 1928 neoclassical building started as a bank. “Over the years, a mezzanine was added, and the space was cut up into small rooms,” Oyler starts. “It wasn’t great.” He and Wu made it so, first by gutting the 3,000-square-foot interior. The dropped ceiling gone, they discovered the original bow trusses beneath a Douglas fir barrel vault, the perfect scenario for adding skylights. “They create a constellation effect,” Wu notes. Over the floor slab, meanwhile, a cementitious product was poured.

Then came the programmatic components. The entry flows into an open kitchen used for demos and other events. Its main feature is an L-shape island fronted in birch plywood milled into a wave relief. Beyond the kitchen, a glass box encloses the 3-D printers, the heart of the operation.

“We knew we needed an architectural component as technologically challenging as the 3-D printing,” Wu says. Hence the stairway and mezzanine balustrade, designed with digital software.

This sinuous intervention combines straight CNC-cut plywood uprights and hand-cut steel tubes with other steel tubes that were CNC-bent according to digital specifications at a metalwork shop in Wisconsin. “When they came back,” Oyler says, “they were like noodles.” A perfect metaphor for a culinary lab.

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