2020 Twenty-five Year Award

Firm: Eric Owen Moss Architects

Owner: Frederick and Laurie Samitaur Smith

Location: Culver City, CA

Initiated in 1986 on the Hayden Tract, a former industrial site bounding Central Los Angeles and Culver City, Conjunctive Points--The New City began as simple additions and subtractions to an existing collection of warehouses. With architect Eric Owen Moss designing or renovating one eclectic building at a time, the project set contemporary standards for adaptive re-use, launched the concept of creative office space, and positioned architecture as a method to uncover new social and civic opportunities.

Moss was approached by husband and wife developers Frederick and Laurie Samitaur Smith, who were looking to leverage their artistic sensibilities—the former a one-time artistic assistant to Picasso, the latter a trained actor and dancer—to create a new model for revitalization. The developers had acquired a significant collection of buildings along the tract, many of which were wood-framed, long-span warehouses and manufacturing spaces left vacant after industry headed overseas in the 1970s. This area, once red-lined and with zero investment, was the resulting exchange of ideas across three decades. The development has reversed the area’s plummeting property values and rising crime rates becoming a subject of study for the planners, architects, and policymakers who are rethinking cities and their potential to drive greater connection, resilience, and sustainability.

"It is a powerful example of building in the service of rejuvenation, and of a political will meeting design ambition."  - Jury Comment

8522 National Boulevard, the first project Moss designed in the Hayden Tract, set the architectural and organizational precedent for Conjunctive Points--The New City. At the time, the initial strategy for the two-time National AIA Design Award winner was radical: convert a former plastic factory into office space for the creative industries that support L.A.’s film industry. Little attention was paid to former industrial buildings in the 1980s, cementing their status as urban blight. If redevelopment was an option, the conventional model was to bulldoze the area and begin anew with conventional building stock. Moss’ approach to clean and repair the Hayden Tract’s buildings and support them with new architecture maintained the site’s scale and preserved its original building typologies. In doing so, Moss enabled the buildings to accommodate contemporary uses while thriving in a new economic setting.

A master plan offered design concepts for 30 projects, many of which were completed by 1994. Since then, additional projects have addressed the ever-changing needs of a diverse and eclectic neighborhood. When examined one by one, Moss’ oeuvre at the Hayden Tract reveals a wide array of architectural and technical achievements that have been celebrated, published, and studied worldwide. But, perhaps most importantly, the collective value of his works there can be found in the radical transformation of the neighborhood.

Writing in the New York Times, critic Herbert Muschamp noted, “Moss’s projects strike me as such a form of education. The knowing spontaneity of his forms, the hands-on approach implicit in their strong, sculptural contours, the relationship they describe between a city’s vitality and creative potential of its individuals: these coalesce into tangible lessons about how a city should face its future.”

At first, Moss’ careful remodels and idiosyncratic buildings with playful, singular names—Umbrella, Beehive, Pterodactyl—attracted small start-ups and young entrepreneurs providing music, graphics, advertising, and post-production services. Since then, major companies such as Nike, Converse, and, most recently, Beats, GoPro, and Apple have followed in the neighborhood. In an area once devoid of purpose, Conjunctive Points--The New City has prompted significant job creation with an estimated 15,000 newly employed workers flocking there. It remains one of the L.A. area’s most desired office locations. As property values soar, theaters, restaurants, and galleries continue to fill the space between the commercial development.

"The New City represents experimentation in architecture and the opportunity to create change for the future....It uses architecture to encourage creativity and thought." Jury Comment

A marriage of architecture and creative enterprise helps Conjunctive Points--The New City anchor the region to its history of American television and film innovation while providing a glimpse of a future community built on embracing the value of diverse and emerging industries. As Paul Goldberger wrote in The New Yorker in 2010, “Moss has managed to accomplish something that none of his fellow-jet-setters have ever achieved: the creation of a genuine urban transformation through architecture.”

Jury

Samuel M. Miller, FAIA (Chair), LMN, Seattle, Washington

Merrill Elam, AIA, Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects, Atlanta, Georgia

Rebecca Sharkey, AIA, EHDD, San Francisco, California

Dale Frens, AIA, patterhn ives, llc, West Chester, Pennsylvania

Michael Johns, FAIA, NOMA, Mdesigns + MWJ Consulting LLC, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Michelle Acosta, AIA, SmithGroup, Phoenix, Arizona

Trinity Simons, Mayor's Institute on City Design, Washington, District of Columbia

Kevin Alter, Assoc. AIA, Alterstudio Architecture, Austin, Texas

Caleb Bertels, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas

Image credits

EOMA_01

Tom Bonner

View of Samitaur Tower

Tom Bonner

EOMA_02

Tom Bonner

EOMA_04

Tom Bonner

EOMA_05

Eric McNevin