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A City of “Angles”

Eric Owen Moss

Flying into Los Angeles on a clear night, you are dazzled by a tapestry of lights, extending from the black void of mountains and desert to the ocean. It’s a glorious mirage that vanishes with the dawn. By day, the descent to LAX reveals an expanse of industrial sheds and a relentless grid of doll houses, interrupted by meager clusters of office towers. Away from a few pampered enclaves, from Beverly Hills to Santa Monica, this is the reality of the flatlands, and Culver City in South Central LA is one of many blue-collar communities that is trying to reinvent itself. The one surviving movie studio is no longer a thriving factory, and light industry has migrated to Asia. Hip restaurants and art galleries have filled the vacuum and young couples are upgrading modest houses.
Twenty-five years ago, when Culver City was a crime-ridden backwater, Frederick and Laurie Samitaur Smith bought a six-hectare tract of decrepit warehouses bordered by a cement-chaneled creek and defunct freight lines. As developers and patrons of music and dance, they declared their intention “to use architecture as a catalyst to build a creative community and as a generator that would make the city more livable and productive.” Eric Owen Moss, an iconoclastic young architect, leased one of the work spaces and was commissioned by Samitaur Constructs, the Smiths’ construction-management company, to transform neighboring properties. With the zeal of a Gordon Matta-Clark he cut into the stucco sheds and their bow-truss wood vaults, wrapping them with new structures of concrete block, cement board, steel and glass. New buildings were raised off the ground or tilted, and strange shapes - christened Umbrella, Beehive, and Slash/Backslash - emerged from the generic facades. Digital media companies leased space, alongside such established names as Sony, Nike, AOL, and the Ogilvy & Mather agency.
Samitaur Tower is the public symbol of Conjunctive Points, as the tract is now called. It’s a...

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