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11.01.2010
Moss' New Samitaur Tower Looms Over Culver City
Artfully stacked tower brings height to a low-rise landscape
Eric Owen Moss' Samitaur Tower offers unique views of a low-rise landscape.
Tom Bonner

Standing on the third floor of Eric Owen Moss’ new Samitaur Tower in Culver City is an illuminating experience. You get a view of the treeline and cityscape that few in this low-scaled place ever do. You can also see the progress of the snaking and elevated Expo Light Rail line, which is nearing completion and should be rolling around the neighborhood within the next couple of years. Finally, you get a look at a nearby corner of La Cienega and National, where Moss is designing yet another tall building.

The 72-foot-tall tower is composed of five off-kilter, stacked circular steel rings. Its raw steel construction and jutting forms are a conspicuous new beacon for Hayden Tract, the massive creative office complex that Moss began working on almost 20 years ago. From this vantage, you can see several of his unusual buildings, including the Stealth (which looks like a stealth bomber), the Beehive, and the Umbrella.

Eric Owen Moss' Samitaur Tower in Culver City.The Samitaur Tower at Hayden Tract features a 200-seat amphitheater located under the tower.

Besides being a great lookout point, the tower will serve as a “vertical park,” said Moss, with a 200-plus-seat amphitheater dug underneath, landscaping around it, and a new restaurant and gallery next door.

But the tower’s main purpose—to display “culturally significant content” via central projectors that beam onto a series of curved acrylic screens—hasn’t been worked out. The tower’s zig-zagging profile will allow for multiple outlooks, including views toward the overpass, the freeway, National Boulevard, and the light rail, for instance. Displays, said Moss, could include photographs, artworks, animated films (the team has tested a Kurosawa film), and so on.

Eric Owen Moss' Samitaur Tower.   Eric Owen Moss' Samitaur Tower.
Eric Owen Moss' Culver City Samitaur Tower glows softly at night (left), and the tower viewed from behind reaches for the sky (right).
 

The purpose is “to bring excellence in arts and sciences to all socioeconomic levels,” said Christie Cossman, a spokesperson for the towers’ clients, Frederick and Laurie Samitaur Smith. The owners have said they plan to build seven similar towers in Los Angeles, as well as others in Los Alamos, Albuquerque, and Vienna.

Meanwhile, Moss is hoping he can build two more buildings in the immediate vicinity. One 12-story tower, a couple of blocks east, has both planning approval and initial funding. Supported via a skin of steel tubes, the tower would be one of the only office high-rises in South LA. Moss had less luck with a proposed project just adjacent, a transit-oriented, mixed-use development that the MTA has since replaced with a simple parking lot.

“They’ve missed a great opportunity,” said Moss, who nonetheless plans to continue making his mark on this part of LA.

Sam Lubell