Jenny Wu: Architect, Educator and Jewelry Designer

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The L.A. architect on 3D-printed jewelry, making a 20-mile greenway for Angelenos, and her respect for Eero Saarinen.

Age: 42

Occupation: Architect and 3D-printed jewelry designer

Hometown: Los Angeles

Studio location: Los Angeles

Describe what you make: I have an unusual practice for an architect. My office doesn’t work on a specific type of project. Rather, we only take on projects that have a design focus, whether it’s in the details or the overall building. We found that a project with small budget but large design ambition can be an incredible architectural gem. This way of working gives us the freedom to work on a variety of project scales and types—from public infrastructure to high-rise buildings—as well as installations and wearable pieces like jewelry. Three years ago, I started a 3D-printed luxury jewelry line called Lace by Jenny Wu. While this collection started as a personal side project and blossomed into its own company, it still reflects my architectural aesthetic: marrying line-based geometry with intricate organic movement.

The most important thing you’ve designed to date: This year we were selected to be part of the design team for the Los Angeles River Greenway 2020 project. Once completed, this greenway will make it possible for Angelenos to walk and bike continuously for a 20-mile stretch from Canoga Park to Elysian Valley. This is an opportunity to make a significant impact on L.A. at a scale that is especially humbling. I am excited contribute to a more connected, forward-looking architectural vision of Los Angeles.

The problem your work solves: We’re constantly solving problems at every scale. Some days, we design a detail that may completely change the way a building is typically assembled. Other days, we work with public agencies, community groups, and city administration to achieve the best design solution in connecting one neighborhood to another. There are even days when we work with top 3D-printing companies to create designs with a new material that has never been tested or used in any commercial application. I like to think there’s never a dull day in the office.

What you are working on now: This summer we finished two major projects: a 16-story residential high-rise in Taipei, and an installation we designed and fabricated for Exhibit Columbus, an annual architecture, art, and design event in Columbus, Indiana. “The Exchange,” our project for Exhibit Columbus, was a competition-winning design that created an architectural and conceptual response to an iconic Eero Saarinen building that exists next to the site. We set a series of solid, organic steel volumes in dialogue with a set of frame-based volumes made from steel rods, which relate to the solid void relationship in Saarinen’s work. The second project, the Monarch, is our first large-scale building. It tries to rethink the residential high-rise typology. We were very fortunate to work with a progressive developer in Taiwan who was interested in pushing architectural boundaries while simultaneously meeting economic requirements. It was a difficult but rewarding challenge. After five years, the building was finally completed this summer!

A new or forthcoming project we should know about: In July we launched one of the first 3D-printed, interlocking steel necklaces of its kind. It was acquired by LACMA for its permanent collection. With so many projects finishing, we are excited to start on new ones, which range from a new hotel to a tree house.

What you absolutely have to have in your studio: The perfect balance of working inside the office on design projects, and outside in the backyard on fabrication projects.

What you do when you’re not working: I work a lot. But by living above my office, I’m able to creatively incorporate family life into work life!

Sources of creative envy: Eero Saarinen.

The distraction you want to eliminate: Politics.

Concrete or Marble? Concrete.

High-rise or Townhouse? High-rise.

Aliens or Ghosts? Aliens.

Remember or Forget? Remember everything.

Dark or Light? Dark.

Source: Surface Magazine: http://www.surfacemag.com/articles/jenny-wu-designer-of-the-day/

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