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Don’t look now, Eric Owen Moss has put another landmark along the eastern edge of Culver City with the completion of the Cactus Tower on Hayden tract. Upending the usual relationship of earth and sky, he’s placed cactus plants high above the air, suspending them within a severe steel frame.
When the project first began, the 60-year old industrial press tower was “essentially falling apart,” said Moss. Rather than tearing it all down, the firm saw the possibility of creating a community space for a media, production and design company housed in the adjacent 30,000 square-foot warehouse. The firm removed the metal panel enclosure from the tower, exposing the original frame and bracing. The real eye-catcher however lies on the ceiling, where 28 steel pots sit in gridded formation, each holding a single Mexican Fence Post Cactus. Six parallel lines of pots run east to west, holding a sequence of five cacti.
The arranement of steel pots also acts as part of the tower’s support system. The pots are compression struts, which serve as the vertical chords of five new trusses that comprise the garden. “It’s an interesting and clever way of doing things simultaneously,” said Owen Moss, who borrowed the idea from his winning competition entry (never built) for the Smithsonian Institution’s Patent Office Building
The Cactus Tower easily towers over the other buildings in the area, which are only one or two stories tall. From afar, one eerily sees flying cacti instead of the whole structure. Moss comments with a chuckle, “If you’re sleeping at the wheel, it’ll probably wake you up.”