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On October 28th, Eric Owen Moss, the celebrated Los Angeles architect and Director of Southern California Institute of Architecture will be awarded one of the highest honors in American Art and Architecture, when the National Academy in New York City honors him as a National Academician. Untapped Cities had the privilege of speaking with him about his fearless architecture and the neighborhood he has diligently transformed.

Eric Owen Moss_Culver City_LA_Untapped Cities_Bhushan Mondkar-028The Samitaur Tower stands at the entrance of Hayden Tract and symbolizes the advent of this significant urban development.  The five twisted screens display culturally meaningful content, along with art and graphic presentations. Photo courtesy: Tom Bonner and Eric Owen Moss Architects.

Industrial tracts are going through a renaissance around the world. One in the midst of a dramatic urban transformation in Los Angeles began nearly three decades ago. Hayden Tract, a former industrial zone of Culver City has cycled back to glory, after going down the assembly line of destruction in the seventies. Spearheaded by the creative genius of architect Eric Owen Moss and the bold vision of developers Frederick and Laurie Samitaur Smith, the ongoing architectural experiment has transformed a group of decaying industrial warehouses into radically contemporary buildings, collectively known as Conjunctive Points. This innovative neighborhood in west LA, is now home to some of the most creative film, media and advertising studios.

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Three hours out of Los Angeles off Highway 111 lies an unassuming 9×5 mile grid of a town called Bombay Beach. Driving by, one might assume this is like any one of hundreds of coastal towns surrounding any number of bodies of water. What lies down that turn onto Avenue A is much more nuanced than a simple beach spot.

Were it not for an accident, Bombay Beach may have never existed at all. In 1905, a man-made canal overflowed, causing a flood that created the largest lake in the California Area–the Salton Sea. It didn’t take long for entrepreneurs to see the economic potential. Fish were introduced to the sea, resorts began to open, and by the 1950s the area had become a huge tourist attraction.

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Amidst the flamboyant white mansions and palladian columns, Beverly Hills has a legitimate witch’s house called “The Spadena House.” The house was built by Harry Oliver, an Oscar-nominated art director, in 1921 to serve as the offices and dressing rooms for a film studio in Culver City. It appeared in several silent films in the ’20s and ’30s until it was moved to the corner of Carmelita and Walden in 1924.

The witch’s house serves as a prime example of storybook architecture with its whimsical style. It has a functioning moat, overgrown English style landscaping, and uneven stucco roofing designed to slope like a witch’s hat. The house was also a pre-curser for Disney’s imagineering construction seen in their theme parks.  (more…)

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Sunken City is located just South of Point Fermin Park in San Pedro, Los Angeles. A type of urban atlantis, Sunken City is a hidden cement cemetery for suburban seaside life that literally sank. The entire area has been fenced off since 1987 but the wrought iron fence seems to only prevent cars from coming in. This roughly six acre piece of land was once an oceanside neighborhood is now equally a geologist and graffiti artist dream park.

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Here are the links getting circulated around the Untapped office today.

New York City

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The Last Bookstore. Thankfully this is not a true statement, but the provocative name and lettering on the sign are enough to make anyone wandering around Downtown Los Angeles curious. This might be one of the largest bookstores you’ll ever see, inconspicuously tucked away in a former bank on Spring street.

The store’s name is a play on words. The owners are well aware that the book selling industry is in a sort of crisis, but this never fazed them. The store’s first incarnation was a downtown loft in 2005, and when their online-only shop started to take off, they decided to find a brick and mortar space.  They opened a shop on 4th and Main in 2009, but as the only store that bought used books, they quickly filled out their shelves.  When that lease was up they moved into the current 10,000 square foot location.  (more…)