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.”

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Jan 16, 2014 03:25 pm
 Posted by  sajjicloud

Cheers for a totally captivating article of the wonders of sheer genius with spirit!!!

Jan 16, 2014 11:55 pm
 Posted by  OneofMany

It is a lean list of fates worse than having to listen to Eric Owen Moss listen to himself talk. He is a perfect stereotype of the Architect Blowhard, collecting titles and quotations as a transparent attempt to assert his dominance over anyone unfortunate enough to be within earshot. His one-dimensional single serving "buildings", especially, manifest his futile hope that one sentence snippets of inanity will bestow upon him your awe.

The brilliant Christopher Hawthorne actually dims in the presence of Moss, and seems to apologize for writing about such an empty shell from the very first line of the article. The fact that Moss is trying to take credit for the resurgence of Culver City is equal parts hilarious and horrific.

Living in Culver City as it began to transform from just a place to someplace, one could witness first hand the grassroots community effort that went into making the city a vibrant center for art and culture. Eric Owen Moss' compound of follies and sculptural office buildings spurns this type of one-foot-in-front-of-the-other pragmatism, nor do his personal playthings physically relate in any way to the recently energized Culver City downtown. That takes effort in such a small area, an effort that Moss is amusingly ready to disown, now that it has become clear that the communal neighborhood attentions by others have paid dividends.

Moss suddenly wants his garden gnomes to be part of it instead of apart from it. Like a child in a sandbox, he looks jealously at the other kids playing their game without him. So he tries to brand himself as a "man with the city," and his attempt to suddenly embrace this place he has worked so vigilantly to wall himself off from for the past 20 years exposes the truth of his fickle, self-aggrandizing nature. In an irony completely lost to Eric Owen Moss, the real Culver City has become the very collaborative organization of practicality Moss detests.

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