South Coast Plaza: Meet Me at the Carousel

South Coast Plaza

3333 Bristol Street
Costa Mesa, CA
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On October 23, 2022, the Southern California chapter of Docomomo US and Society of Architectural Historians/Southern California Chapter are presenting a thematic tour of South Coast Plaza.

The original design for South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa embodied Victor Gruen’s seminal ideas that defined shopping malls across the country. Built by the Segerstrom Co. in 1967 on agricultural fields next to the newly minted 405 freeway, South Coast Plaza helped open a new chapter in Orange County living by providing both retail stores and a social center for the new suburbs.

But South Coast Plaza and Gruen’s ideas have not remained frozen in time. It is an example of how his concepts have evolved as the suburbs, the retail industry, and architecture have kept pace with dramatically changing times. Today, as malls shut down all over the country, South Coast Plaza remains one of the most successful and profitable in the world, while reflecting Gruen’s prime mid-century modern ideas.

This tour will give visitors an unhurried opportunity to explore before public opening time. They will walk to the center’s key design features where knowledgeable docents will explain its design and innovations, both past and present. Key elements of the original architecture and plan remain to be discovered. New design elements responding to new conditions add to this ever-morphing architectural type. Along the way, the contributions of noted architects and designers will be discussed, including famous names like Frank Gehry, Welton Becket, Gere Kavanaugh, Helmut Jahn, Kathryn Gustafson, and Cesar Pelli, and less famous designers like Marion Sampler, Harold Levitt, and Rudi Baumfeld who deserve recognition.

A pre-tour virtual panel discussion on October 12 will bring together experts on mall history and Orange County history. Tour-goers will also be given a self-guided tour map to explore significant architectural landmarks around South Coast Plaza, including the new Orange County Museum of Art by Thom Mayne.

Come explore Victor Gruen’s seminal ideas, and how they have survived and thrived over decades of contemporary life.

Advance registration required

$15 Docomomo US, Society of Architectural Historians, and Preserve Orange County members
$20 nonmembers

This event is part of Docomomo US Tour Day 2022.

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