Architect I.M. Pei influenced Irvine

His design philosophies are reflected in Irvine Spectrum Towers.

The world paused recently to celebrate the life of its most revered architect, I.M. Pei.

His most famous works include the glass pyramid entrance to the Louvre in Paris; the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston; and the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

The New York Times wrote that his buildings “dazzled the world,” but Pei was known for his humility and willingness to give back to the profession.

“I was fortunate to have my career influenced by I.M. Pei,” says John Koga, vice president of planning and design for Irvine Company. “I.M. Pei taught all of us about the beauty of geometry and material authenticity in architecture.”

Pei, born in China in 1917, was a modernist architect who was committed to “clean, reserved, sharped-edged” design, according to the Times.

Architect Magazine noted that when Pei was awarded the industry’s highest honor – the Pritzker Prize – the judges proclaimed that he has “given this century its most beautiful interior space and exterior forms.”

Irvine Company selected I.M. Pei’s architectural firm – Pei Cobb Freed & Partners – to design the city’s most iconic buildings: the Irvine Spectrum Towers. The sister towers define the Irvine skyline.

Pei’s legacy in Irvine

Pei’s enduring philosophies of beautiful interior spaces and exterior forms inspired Irvine Company to select his firm – Pei Cobb Freed & Partners – to design the company’s most iconic buildings, including the Irvine Spectrum Towers.

Today, the 21-story sister towers define the Irvine skyline and reflect the rhythm of the day.

The nearly all-glass buildings appear almost invisible as they blend with blue skies that surround them. At dawn and dusk, the towers radiate the colors of the rising and setting sun. And at night, the lights of the Irvine Spectrum Center rise up the sides of the buildings.

This is all by design, and the product of Irvine Company and Pei Cobb Freed & Partners’ shared architectural visions.

The towers were strategically positioned and angled to capture the best light. And their location at the heart of the Irvine Spectrum District creates an unmistakable core for the city of Irvine and Orange County.

“Their beauty lies in the simplicity of form,” Koga says. “They’ve become the skyline signature of the Spectrum District.”

The unique Viracon glass on the Irvine Spectrum
Towers appears nearly invisible against the blue sky, and yet it also reflects its surroundings, from the palm trees, to the mountains, to the setting sun.

Part of the Master Plan

That’s because the towers, along with the retail center and residential communities, were designed as part of the Spectrum District’s Master Plan to create a live-work-play environment.

The two towers are set upon generous lots – unlike most high-rises – that allow for stunning ground-level views of the glass and steel facades.

In addition to Irvine Spectrum Towers, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners designed the soon-to-open Spectrum Terrace, the modern office campus that will feature nine glass-enclosed office buildings near the intersection of the 405 and 133 freeways.

Irvine Company also partnered with the New York-based firm on two office towers in Newport Beach: 520 Newport Center Drive, a 21-story tower wrapped in travertine and glass; and 650 Newport Center Drive, which is home to PIMCO’s global headquarters.

When Pei died in May at age 102, The New York Times noted that what he valued most in architecture was that it “stand the test of time.”

Fortunately, Pei’s legacy of beautiful interior spaces and exterior forms lives on in Irvine and Orange County.