Game Changer: Eric Owen Moss
The architect's 27-year-long collaboration with Frederick and Laurie Samitaur Smith has transformed a once-derelict area into a thriving urban community.
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In the short term, the extension of the Expo Line west to Santa Monica will likely be a boon for the Samitaur Smiths, bringing a whole new pool of tenants and employees within a 20-minute train ride of Hayden Tract. In broader terms, it promises to set the stage for a fascinating clash of philosophies: the private, market-driven approach of the Samitaur Smiths coming face-to-face with L.A.’s newly expanding public realm. Already, the arrival of the train has changed Moss’s Hayden Tract architecture: he designed an open-air art tower for the Samitaur Smiths right along the train tracks, a sort of vertical folly in weathered steel that is lined with screens that can show projected artwork and video. It is the ﬁrst of Moss’s Hayden Tract buildings to lift up its head and take a look at the wider city and region.
The next step will be to add some public spaces—or at least coffee shops and other retail outlets open to the public—to the mix inside Hayden Tract, to accommodate the new visitors carried in by the train. What those visitors will ﬁnd when they arrive is an experiment in the power of architecture to remake a place from the inside out. Both the Samitaur Smiths and Moss continue to notice new details and characteristics of the neighborhood, inspiring them to try further experiments there. Their steadfast commitment, over nearly three decades, to this sliver of the L.A. megalopolis continues to pay dividends.
Surely you remember the famous lines near the end of Eliot’s Four Quartets, right? The book Moss was reading the day Frederick Smith stopped in to pick up the rent? “We shall not cease from exploration,” Eliot wrote. “And the end of all our exploring/ Will be to arrive where we started/ And know the place for the ﬁrst time.”