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AIA Los Angeles Tours: Eric Owen Moss

"There is a philosophical position in the building and it's in a way at least implicitly a comment on media, culture, space, shape, and architecture's role in that discourse." – Eric Owen Moss

Samitaur Tower

To fully understand one's city, one must understand its architecture. Throughout the year, AIA of Los Angeles offers a wide array of design tours to the public, ranging from multi-family residential units to large scale commercial parks. These tours allow architecture enthusiasts to discover buildings, space, and the visual experience of Los Angeles. I had the opportunity to attend their last tour of 2014 on the vast work of Eric Owen Moss, all of which is located in the industrial area known as Hayden Tract in Culver City.

Spearheaded by the creative genius of Moss and the bold vision of land developers Frederick and Laurie Samitaur Smith, the ongoing architectural experiment that is Hayden Tract is one of the most architecturally progressive neighborhoods in the United States. Almost the entirety of Moss's work is concentrated to these few blocks, and since the late nineteen-eighties, he has slowly, one building at a time, achieved a genuine urban transformation through architecture. Most of the designs are low-rise commercial buildings, but he has repurposed the old warehouses and factories, warping them into strange new shapes to arrive at structures of weathered steel, concrete, and glass. There are curves, twists, and fragments, sharply angled walls and exposed structural elements, all of which have a way of making the buildings look discordant, even unfinished.

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Waffle

Cactus Tower

The tour began at Moss's architectural studio, which is conveniently placed within a mile radius of 90% of his built designs. The inside of his studio consists of three decades of drawings, models, pieces of art scattered about, all representing a preview of what was to come.

The first building on the tour was the Waffle, which is currently under construction and Moss's newest creation. The Waffle undulates like precariously stacked papers, and is constructed of a steel frame with in-fill glass panels. Adjacent to the Waffle is the Cactus Tower—a 55-foot-high steel frame enclosure that holds a cactus garden 30 feet above ground.

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3535 Hayden

We then walked along a vegetated path to 3535 Hayden, where Moss partially demolished a building whose roof had been supported by arched wooden bowstring trusses. He then left the ends of the arches poking through his new cement-plaster façade, expressing the raw materiality of the building.

Umbrella

Backlash

Across Hayden Ave sits the Umbrella; distinguished by a huge corner canopy of twisted glass and steel that looks as if it has crashed into the building and broken apart. It faces a pair of buildings with glass walls slanting sharply in opposite directions known as Slash and Backslash. There is a compelling energy to these odd angles, and a sense of incompleteness.

The Beehive / Box

To end the tour, we came upon Moss's most recognizable designs, the Beehive / Box and the neighboring Samitaur Tower. The Box is a distorted cube of dark metal on legs that stands on top of an existing warehouse. Adjacent is the Beehive, a layered structure in which each piece seems to have been added at a different time and to a different logic. Both of these structures surround a green gathering space, fostering a vibrant sense of community by creating an innovative hub.

The Samitaur Tower, located at the corner of National and Hayden, acts as a focal point of Moss's work. The seventy-two foot high observation tower consists of five open platforms wrapped in translucent acrylic that can turn into a screen, allowing the entire building to display video art or electronic media. The tower overlooks the route of the new Expo Metro Line, and conceptually has both introverted and extroverted planning objectives.

Samitaur Tower

In Hayden Tract alone, Moss has designed more than 30 buildings, all of which are uniquely original and yet they are unified by his distinctive style. The resulting architecture and urban-scape is an explosion of sculptural forms; an abstract symphony of chaos, time, space and materiality. These buildings don't just blend into their context. Rather they announce the winds of change, while honoring the past.

For more information regarding AIA Los Angeles and a schedule of this years tours, please visit http://www.aialosangeles.org/.

For more information on the designs Eric Owen Moss, please visit http://ericowenmoss.com/. A comprehensive map of his work in Hayden Tract can be seen here.