South Coast Plaza Honors César Pelli’s Architectural Works

Costa Mesa, CA, July 2019 – South Coast Plaza pays tribute to the internationally renowned architect, Cesar Pelli, who died at 92 on July 19 at his home in New Haven, Conn. Pelli designed buildings which are part of an arts, culture and business hub in Orange County that South Coast Plaza’s cofounder, Henry Segerstrom, envisioned more than 50 years ago.

Located steps away from each other in Costa Mesa, Pelli’s body of work in Orange County consists of the Plaza Tower skyscraper on Anton Blvd., the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, Samueli Theater and the extension of South Coast Repertory.

“The world lost a master of urban architecture,” said Elizabeth Segerstrom co-managing partner, South Coast Plaza. “The concert hall, Plaza Tower, Samueli Theater and South Coast Repertory designed by Cesar Pelli exemplify his immense talent and profound understanding of the role those buildings played in fulfilling Henry’s vision of a cosmopolitan center. Cesar was more than a titan of the architecture world – he also was a friend who will be missed. We mourn his passing and honor his legacy.”

In 1990, the Segerstrom family selected Pelli to design Plaza Tower, one of three skyscrapers in the South Coast Plaza office building portfolio. The building opened a year later, becoming Orange County’s first commercial skyscraper clad in stainless steel – a recognizable landmark visible from the 405 freeway.

Pelli told the Los Angeles Times, “It was an early decision to use stainless steel. The reflections are diffused by an almost invisible pattern stamped onto the panels, eliminating hot spots in the reflection and creating a warm and lively feeling.”

For the expansion of the adjacent South Coast Repertory, which was completed in 2002, he created a new façade and lobby that flawlessly fused the original theater with the additions.

What followed was much larger and more ambitious in scope and scale. Nearby is the 2,000-seat Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, which opened in October 2006 after the Segerstrom family donated $40 million and the land for the hall. The New York Times described the concert hall this way: “It has made a splash, with its undulating glass walls, curvaceous tiers, silver-leafed foyer ceiling, chandelier of 300 individual hanging crystal lights and well-coifed public plaza.”

The last piece of Pelli’s body of work in Costa Mesa is the Samueli Theater, which he situated on the opposite end of the building housing the concert hall. He seamlessly connected the two performing arts venues using a continuous exterior surface of beige Portuguese limestone.

If there might have been an insight into Pelli’s guiding principles in designing iconic places – no matter their stature or location – it is the simple but meaningful sentence in the Los Angeles Times 28 years ago that remains relevant to this day: “Buildings, like people, need to be alive.”