MOSSticism in the Hayden Tract
by Alice Kimm, AIA
Almost fifteen years ago, architect Eric Owen Moss began to work with developer-urbanists Frederick and Laurie Smith to revitalize the industrial Hayden Tract of Culver City, California. Now, with over twenty buildings either completed or under construction — most of them reworkings of abandoned warehouses — it is clear that something special has come to fruition in this once-upon-a-time wasteland.
Many of Moss's buildings in the Hayden Tract have been widely published as individual entities. However, the buildings are now attracting attention as they relate to a collective vision: one that provides a precedent for how similar abandoned or under-used industrial environments around the world might be transformed into thriving art- and commerce-driven communities.
When Moss first met the Smiths, they had already begun to figure out how they might transform the Hayden Tract. Because they did not own the entire area, they generated a strategy called "Conjunctive Points" that would develop overlapping "points" of land.
These points would be sources of visible architectural energy which, once accrued, would unify the geography into a coherent landscape. The Smiths were fortunate in that the area was in total disrepair, so the political forces that usually thwart development in other parts of Los Angeles were willing to give them a lot of freedom.
Moss rejuvenated first one building for the Smiths, then another, with never a clear idea of what was to come next, and with no assurance that the next "point" would actually be developed. It was, and remains, an experiment.
The Samitaur Building was Eric Owen Moss's first entirely new building in the Hayden Tract. The long block sits in the air above an existing road connecting three warehouses.
Photo: Tom Bonner
The Samitaur Building sports two idiosyncratic end pieces.
Image: Paul Groh
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