The Tinkerer and His Tower

Monday 31 Jan 2011

Eric Owen Moss' new Samitaur Tower offers bold new ideas on public space

Eric Owen Moss is credited with putting Culver City on the map. So said Peter Cook who, in writing about the architect’s latest project there, The Samitaur Tower, for the Italian design magazine, Abitare, credited Moss with transforming the West Los Angeles suburb from a dump into a happening place. The latest chapter in Moss’s epic adventure of city building which has spanned 20 years and given rise to a number of experiment buildings is a new media tower, named for Frederick and Lauri Samitaur Smith, a former journalist and actor, who like their architect are committed to the area’s transformation.

Samituar Tower is first and foremost an information tower. But it is also designed to be a lookout tower, an entertainment venue and a marker of the new community that has taken hold there - one teeming with arts and entertainment types. Located directly across from a new light rail line to be completed in June that will connect the area to Los Angeles and potentially bring 30,000 visitors to its ranks, the Samituar Tower stands to figure prominently in the area’s new world order, both as a symbol of its transformation and as a new type of public gathering space.

At its simplest, the tower is a billboard on steroids. It has five video screens oriented to different audiences including transit riders, pedestrians and motorists. At each level, there is a viewing deck, from which visitors can view the surrounding area and Los Angeles beyond. While these screens have yet to be programmed, Moss envisions that they will stream videos, advertising and other culturally significant content depending upon need and interest. To keep the tower relevant, a certain amount of happenstance has been built in allowing it to be programmable for future uses.

Rising 72ft high (making it the tallest structure in the district) the weathered steel tower with its seemingly precarious positioning belies its sturdy underpinnings, which have been designed to withstand earthquakes. It is to be the first of many towers in the area which, if fully realised, will transform this Southern California Mecca into a modern day equivalent of an Italian hilltown, with its own, inventive piazza. But beyond its borders, the Samitaur Tower offers bold new ideas on how future cities can be shaped to address contemporary conditions.

Sharon McHugh
US Correspondent


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