Tag Archives: ERIC OWEN MOSS

#186: ANOTHER BAKER’S DOZEN

April 26, 2024

Broad Beach Residence, Malibu, California (photo by Iwan Baan)

A few years ago, I listed some of my favorite buildings in the city of Los Angeles. Today, I offer another dozen favorites from Southern California, but outside of Los Angeles proper. There are many wonderful works of architecture in our region that to choose only thirteen is impossible. Regardless, here a some in no particular order, from residences to retail, from restaurants to religious to research.

Broad Beach Residence, Malibu, California (photo by Iwan Baan)

1: The 10,800-square-foot, six-bedroom Broad Beach Residence offers a new form to residential architecture. The triangular composition by Michael Maltzan Architecture starts narrow at the street and expands towards the beach and ocean, maximizing views to the horizon. This martini glass-shape houses two major bedrooms hovering above a courtyard with swimming pool and basketball court, replete with indoor-outdoor enjoyment of the Malibu coast.

(W)rapper, Culver City, California (photo by Anthony Poon)

2. The old saying goes, “Love me, hate me, but don’t ignore me.” So it is for this Culver City office known as the (W)rapper, by Eric Owen Moss Architects. The 17-story structure has the honor of being 2023’s most written about building. The bizarre steel exoskeleton with its aggressively cantilevered stairs, oddly shaped glazing, and large expanses of solid walls result in a sublime and grotesque presence in a low-lying skyline. The verdict: I admire the courage.

Prada Epicenter, Beverly Hills, California (photo from OMA)

3. In Beverly Hills, OMA reinvents shopping at the Prada Epicenter on Rodeo Drive. From the street, the floor rolls up to the second level, becoming an amphitheater to display fashions or socialize. The traditional storefront display is subverted by eliminating the condition. Instead, the store opens to the street in its entirety—secured at closing by a massive aluminum panel that rises out of the sidewalk. Street retail displays are set in the concrete floor, where a shopper looks downward on, separated by elliptical glass panels upon which one stands, if feeling courageous.

Gardenhouse, Beverly Hills, California (photo by Nic Lehoux)

4. MAD Architects—creators of the upcoming, monumental, 300,000-square-foot Lucas Museum of Narrative Art—designed a whimsical mixed-use project of 18 condos and commercial spaces. Entitled Gardenhouse, the architects envisioned a 48,000-square-foot “hillside village” in Beverly Hills, where an assemblage of quirky house-like forms rise from the building’s living façade.

Frank Gehry’s house, Santa Monica, California (photo by IK’s World Trip)

5. During the many decades of its making, the neighbors hated this house. To their astonishment, the masterful creation has become one of the most famous residences in the world, a living thesis of and personal residence to Frank Gehry’s seminal ideas. For the existing Dutch colonial, Santa Monica house, the architect engaged the traditional personality with torn apart walls and roofs revealing a skeletal expression of wood studs. Enter the 1970s premiere of chain link fence, raw plywood, and corrugated metal to the world of high design.

Chiat/Day Building, Venice, California (photo from The Architect’s Newspaper)

6. Gehry at it again, this time in Venice. Often called the “Binocular Building,” the Chiat/Day headquarters, now occupied by Google, blurs the line between art and architecture. Visitors and cars enter the 75,000-square-foot building through the binoculars, a functional sculpture with offices within, created with artists Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Brugge. On the right sits a tree-like composition in copper panels, and on the left, a contrasting enameled metal ship form.

Maison Martin Margiela, Beverly Hills, California (photo from archdaily.com and johnstonmarklee.com)

7. Thinking of the Maison Martin Margiela store in Beverly Hills, I am reminded of the Sparkletts water delivery truck and its tiny shimmering discs—a kinetic surface reflecting the sun. Played out on a much larger scale, architects Johnson Marklee covered the Margiela’s façades entirely in these mirror-like discs. Always in motion (and not captured well in a photograph), this visual treat sparkles while displaying wind patterns swooshing down the retail street.

Kate Mantalini, Beverly Hills, California (photo from morphosis.com)

8. Though Kate Mantalini closed in 2014, this Beverly Hills restaurant was an icon, both socially and architecturally. As a place to see-and-be-seen, the design was no quiet backdrop. Architect Morphosis created an energetic living room of art, sculpture, and architecture: angled walls, oculus/skylight sundial, steel beam compositions, curved mural of boxers, striped black and white tile floor, and irreverent giant headshots of Andie MacDowell (why her?). The final result remains in memory as a local attraction and an influential early work from the Pritzker-prized architect.

Wayfarers Chapel, Rancho Palo Verdes, California (photo by Olive Stays)

9. When the Wayfarers Chapel first opened in Rancho Palo Verdes, the 1950s site was not the lush forest of trees as one encounters today. On a bluff overlooking the ocean, Lloyd Wright (son of Frank Lloyd Wright) designed a crystalline glass and wood structure surrounded by majestic skies and vast land. As dramatic as the chapel’s origin was, the current state is no less powerful—now a magical building surrounded by dense trees. One enters as if in a romantic fairy tale. Last year, the chapel was named a National Historic Landmark. (Unfortunately due to recent land movements, the chapel has been slated to be dismantled and reconstructed at a new location TBD.)

Riviera United Methodist Church, Torrance, California (photo by Anthony Poon)

10. A lesser known work from Richard Neutra, the Riviera United Methodist Church displays the simplicity and elegance of colleague Mies van der Rohe’s “less is more.” Neutra introduced the International Style to California, alongside his once-roommate at the famed Kings Road House, Rudolf Schindler—architect of said house (which was no. 14 on this list). Coincidentally in the early 1900s, both Neutra and Schindler arrived from Austria and worked for Frank Lloyd Wright. For this church, Neutra embraced the rectilinear nature of post-and-beam construction, adapting it to the fresh air of Redondo Beach.

Case Study House No. 8, Pacific Palisades, California (photo from archilovers.com)

11. The Case Study House No. 8, also the Eames House, served as the modest 1,500-square-foot personal residence and 1,000-square-foot design laboratory for husband-wife architects, Charles and Ray Eames. For this National Historic Landmark in the Pacific Palisades, the house should possess an “unselfconscious” and the “way-it-should-be-ness.” Through new technologies, off-the-shelf materials, and standard components, the architects pioneered much of today’s pre-fab, modular construction industry. (L)

Neurosciences Institute, La Jolla, California (photo from twbta.com)

12. With the Neurosciences Institute, Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects created a “monastery for scientists.” In La Jolla, three structures—theory center, 350-seat auditorium, and labs—nestle into the earth and form a courtyard. As is typical of the architects’ work, this research campus explores the most sublime and fetishized (obsessive?) details and materials: sand blasted concrete, redwood panel sun shades, bas-relief surfaces, jade green serpentine stone, fossil stone from Texas, and bead-blasted stainless steel. This tactile environment confronts all the senses.

Salk Institute for Biological Studies, California (photo by Adam Bignell on Unsplash)

13. Ask any architect, this is the hero of them all: the Salk Institute. If a work can be named one of greatest of all time, Louis Kahn’s 412,000-square-foot research center in La Jolla is high on this list. Jonas Salk, who created the polio vaccine, asked the architect to “create a facility worthy of a visit by Picasso.” With influences from monastery design, Kahn’s profound composition inspires scientists, architects, and everyday visitors, with its otherworldly beauty and axial relationship to the clouds, horizon, and beyond.

(For my 2023 favorites from around the world, visit here.)

#160: THE BRAVERY OF HAYDEN TRACT

October 28, 2022

(W)rapper: Moss' most ambitious project to date, a highrise with a striking exterior frame which eliminates all columns on the inside, Los Angeles, California (photo by Anthony Poon)

Good architecture takes vision. Great architecture takes courage. Within Culver City lies Hayden Tract, a former industrial zone named after the main streets, Hayden Avenue and Hayden Place. For the past four decades, this neighborhood has served as the national stage for the audacious vision of architect Eric Owen Moss and developer/builders Frederick and Laurie Samitaur Smith.

Pterodactyl: a visually-bold composition of zinc-clad boxes set into a glass office building, Culver City, California (photo by Anthony Poon)

Recently, I got a behind-the-scenes tour of Hayden Tract, organized by the AIA with members of Eric Owen Moss’ studio. Regarding the architecture, the Baroque and Mannerist art movements of 17th and 18th century Europe came to mind: sensual excess, grandeur and daring, and an idiosyncratic sense of awe.

3535 Hayden: The existing wood trusses remain like historic artifacts, Culver City, California (photo by Anthony Poon)
Samitaur: Architecture as art and sculpture, Culver City, California (photo by Anthony Poon)

In the 80s, husband-wife, real estate developer team, Frederick and Laura, launched an agenda of city transformation unlike no other. Prior to that, the husband was Pablo Picasso’s assistant, and the wife, a Los Angeles dancer and performing artist. The couple founded their organization, Samitaur, and found their lifelong pet project in Hayden Tract. At the time of their property acquisitions decades ago, the area was not much more than a rag-tag collection of crumbling buildings and streets.

Pterodactyl: left-the expressiveness of the exterior continue throughout the interiors of this office space; right-offices cantilever over the parking ramps, Culver City, California (photos by Anthony Poon)
Pterodactyl: Complexities of the engineering express themselves unapologetically, Culver City, California (photo by Anthony Poon)

Eric Owen Moss, a Los Angeles native with degrees from UCLA, UC Berkeley, and Harvard, started his design studio in 1973. The three individuals met a decade later through an ordinary circumstance: Moss was a tenant paying rent to his landlord, Samitaur. Since then, Frederick and Laura have been an unwavering loyal client to Moss, commissioning project after project, year after year, decade after decade. This patronage mirrors one of the most fruitful benefactions in history. From the Renaissance, I call it the Medici Effect.

left: Dining table detail at Waffle (now Verspertine restaurant), right: Pterodactyl: Zinc-clad and glass forms collide with impressive results, Culver City, California (photos by Anthony Poon)
Waffle: Originally designed as a conferenece center, then later adapted into a restaurant, Culver City, California (photos by Anthony Poon)

These days, Hayden Tract has become a pilgrimage for architects seeking landmarks of renewal and artistry—a flexing of muscles on the other-side-of-the-tracks. The nearby predictable redevelopment of downtown Culver City brings the expected offerings of shops, bars, and restaurants (and traffic!).

Strait is the Gate: Announcing the entry with steel plates and tubes, Culver City, California (photo by Anthony Poon)

Herbert Muschamp, New York Times, pronounced, “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 the creative potential of its individuals: these coalesce into tangible lessons about how a city should face its future.”

Slash and Backslash: Glass surfaces express the cut away forms, Culver City, California (photo by Anthony Poon)

Neither Modern, Post-Modern, Post-Structuralist, or Deconstructivist, the work of Moss side steps the labels. His architecture defies both lessons learned and the successes of history, paving an individualistic path. The designs also resist the standard definitions of the industry, being architecture and art, sculpture and theater. From the 18th century movement, the Grotesque, such adjectives may apply to Moss’ work: deformed, bizarre, and uncomfortable, yet strikingly beautiful.

The Umbrella: A virtuoso performance of steel and shaped glass, Culver City, California (photo by Anthony Poon)

The materials are raw and honest, elemental even—unassuming concrete, metal, wood, and glass. The details are extreme. Like a car crash, one cannot advert the gaze, as I wonder how such twisted and decadent details are imagined, engineered, drawn, city-approved, and built in the field. Not only do the personalities of each project— nearly all unique—resist categorization, the forms and shapes appear to disregard even gravity itself. For architects—fans or not of the quixotic collaboration between Moss and Samitaur—the result is an extraordinary city-size amusement park of architectural indulgences, a wonderland of spatial and visual treasures not to be overlooked or presumed arbitrary. I think of the axiom, “Love me or hate me, but don’t ignore me.”

#56: IS TV FOR REAL? PART 2

February 17, 2017

Potential clients have come to my office asking for three free designs from which to pick—“the way we saw it on HGTV.” My anger aside from how reality TV twists reality, the client’s request compromises the integrity of the architectural process. (This article is a follow up to my past one, Is TV for Real?)

My client meeting with a Buddhist Foundation, Virginia, for a new dining hall (photo by Bryan Bethem)
My client meeting with a Buddhist Foundation, Virginia, for a new dining hall (photo by Bryan Bethem)

When I design for a client, I don’t draw three random schemes in a vacuum. I listen to the client first—their goals and dreams. When I show preliminary concepts, the client provides feedback on what they like and what they don’t. Through this back-and-forth process, a design develops, and is then refined. Not ever in a vacuum, the creative process is an exciting and thoughtful journey.

Okay, time for me to confess. Here and there, I have learned a few things from TV about color coordinating, selecting furniture, and being creative on a budget. I confess!

Also, the reality TV DIY shows have brought design to the forefront, that a well-crafted, nicely-styled life is desirable and achievable. In 15-minute bite size servings, these shows have delivered architecture to the mainstream.

Architect Howard Roark’s client presentation from The Fountainhead, 1949
Architect Howard Roark’s client presentation from The Fountainhead, 1949

In some distant past, clients were under the impression that design was a mysterious, closed-loop process. Now, many are conscious of how accessible good design advice is, whether from an award-winning architect or, yes, a charismatic TV personality.

I enjoy meeting with clients who already understand the concepts of an open floor plan, for example. Good or bad, these clients come prepared with Pinterest pages on style. Thank you reality TV. The clients and I can hit the ground running, proceeding with a shared foundation. Knowledge is power, after all, even in choosing paint colors.

Love-It-Web

Once was a cocktail debate between architects: “Who is the most influential voice in our industry?”

The usual suspects were tossed out as conversational sacrificial lambs. Local big names like Steven Ehrlich and Eric Owen Moss. Pritzker Prize winners like Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry. A safe go-to is naming the senior leaders like I.M. Pei and Renzo Piano.

National Centre for The Exhibition of Contemporary Art and Architecture, Rome, Italy, by Zaha Hadid (photo from fundazionemaxxi.it)
National Centre for The Exhibition of Contemporary Art and Architecture, Rome, Italy, by Zaha Hadid (photo from fundazionemaxxi.it)

Another angle is to suggest famous architects no longer living, but believed to be still influential today, i.e., Frank Lloyd Wright or Le Corbusier. Pretentiously, you can also try the obscure, though no less significant, such as Wang Shu, Sverre Fehn or Paulo Mendes de Rocha.

Ningbo Museum, China, by Wang Shu (photo by Iwan Baan)
Ningbo Museum, China, by Wang Shu (photo by Iwan Baan)

My contribution that night stopped the discussion. I proclaimed, “Martha Stewart!”

At the time, Martha Stewart utilized avenues of outreach in all forms, and was better known than any other designer in the country, maybe even in the world. If she stated with a quiet breath that “pink is to be used at table settings this season,” you could count on millions of dining tables across America set with something pink.

Stewart-2-Web

Let the debates and cynicism rage on. It’s all for the good. Martha, HGTV, Sunset, Houzz, Dwell, Wayfair, the plethora of magazines and blogs, etc.—all of it deserves gratitude from architects everywhere. To the widest audience, these mainstream entities deliver the concept of wanting good design. And for that, I say thank you.

Covers-Web

#40: WHO WILL BE MY CLIENT?

July 8, 2016

Arena for 2000 Olympics, Sydney, Australia, by Anthony Poon (w/ NBBJ)

In architecture school, our professors provided us with projects to design. Example: For this semester, design a sports arena in San Francisco, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

But here is the thing: How does an architect land such a project after graduation? This is a challenging question to ponder after you leave the comforts of school, after you have made the premature decision to start your own architecture company from your apartment. And you realize that you have no clients. Not a sports arena. Not even a bathroom addition. None at all.

Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, Florence, Italy, by Leon Battista Alberti and Giorgio Vasari (photo by wanderfly)
Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, Florence, Italy, by Leon Battista Alberti and Giorgio Vasari (photo by wanderfly)

Everyone sees homes, theaters, parks and shopping centers within our communities, but how does an architect get hired to design them?

Many architects would kill for a system I call the Medici Effect. Within such a circumstance, an architect can sustain a career through the loyal patronage of a single client—be it an individual, a retail chain, or a university. This Medici Effect is a client-architect relationship where decade after decade, the faithful client provides the architect with projects.

Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flowers, Florence, Italy, by Arnolfo di Cambio (photo by Petar Milosevic)
Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flowers, Florence, Italy, by Arnolfo di Cambio (photo by Petar Milosevic)

From the 15th to the 18th century, the Medici family reigned supreme in Florence. As wool merchants initially, then formidable bankers later, this family commissioned Renaissance painters, sculptors and writers. And yes, architects too.

Alongside hiring painters Michelangelo, Raphael and Rubens, and the scientist Galileo, the Medici’s supported architects most of all: Alberti, Vasari, Buontalenti and Bartolomeo, just to name a few. As one of the most powerful clans throughout Europe, the Medici family bankrolled the entire career of any architect of their choosing, as well as completing building upon building—from palaces to churches, from museums to hospitals.

Pterodactyle, Culver City, California, by Eric Owen Moss Architects (photo by Architect)
Pterodactyle, Culver City, California, by Eric Owen Moss Architects (photo by Architect)
Samitaur Tower, Culver City, California, by Eric Owen Moss Architects (photo by Tom Bonner)
Samitaur Tower, Culver City, California, by Eric Owen Moss Architects (photo by Tom Bonner)

Though a wonderful tale from hundreds of years ago, this Medici Effect does continue today. A contemporary example can be found in Culver City, where a husband/wife, client/developer team of Frederick and Laurie Samitaur Smith has sustained a 30-year patronage of Eric Owen Moss Architects. Project after project, the Smiths have produced a city-scale portfolio of buildings through the talents of this single architect

During fortunate periods of my career, my Medici’s have appeared in the form of developers, retiring architects, friends, and even a public school district. What I have learned so far, if I have learned anything at all, is that an architect should base a career on relationships not contracts. If an architect’s entire career revolves around one hundred projects, it is better to find ten patrons that might each give you ten commissions vs. finding one hundred individual clients.

It should be taught in architecture schools, and it should be a directive at the workplace: Build relationships and attract clients. At many law firms, entry-level attorneys, even paralegals, are requested to bring in clients.

DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, University of Notre Dame, Indiana, by Anthony Poon (w/ HHPA, photo by Pfeiffer Partners)
DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, University of Notre Dame, Indiana, by Anthony Poon (w/ HHPA, photo by Pfeiffer Partners)

Architecture is not just about earth shattering design, but about marketing, business development and public relations. If you are simple minded, call it “schmoozing.” If you are intelligent, call it good business. And, if you are human, call it survival.

© Poon Design Inc.