On July 7, 2003, ground was broken for the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects organized the complex around a large ‘Plaza of the Arts’ and intended the concert hall to be an elegant and vibrant sculptural form that glows in the Southern California light.
On its south, east, and west sides, the building is a composition of solid limestone forms. The exception is the entrance to the smaller Samueli Family Theater, where a tall glass lobby creates a large and dramatic marquee. The main entrance to the hall is all glass but faces north so is naturally protected from the sun. This undulating wall of white glass creates an ever-changing composition of reflections, transparencies, and highlights.
In recognition of Henry’s personal cornerstone gift, the new concert hall was named the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall after the Center’s founding chairman and in honor of his late wife. The Segerstrom Concert Hall accommodates up to 2,000 audience members. The shoebox-shaped hall features three, silver-leafed, acoustical canopies that mark the interior. Silver leaf, applied to the gently curving ribbons of the canopy, forms a shimmering ceiling, reflecting the colors of both the performers and audience below. The pipes for the organ are also silvery—some formed of metal, and others in wood covered with silver leaf. The silver pipes and the canopy were designed so that the canopy will appear as almost an extension of the organ itself, reinforcing the fluid movement of the design in concert with the flow of sound.
The architects note that the ribbons of the canopy relate to the curving forms of the concert hall balconies, the lobby ceiling, and the glass facade. The room is equipped with acoustics-control chambers, which, in conjunction with the adjustable canopies, create ideal performance conditions for large symphony orchestras, chamber ensembles, chorales, and solo instrumentalists and vocalists. The adjustable acoustic curtains and banners bring additional flexibility to the acoustical capabilities of the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. An adjustable orchestra pit can be potentially used for extra seating stage space. The Concert Hall includes a music library, two large orchestra chambers for rehearsals, eight individual rehearsal rooms, and fifteen dressing rooms.
On January 12, 2011, the name of the complex was officially changed to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. The new name honors the extraordinary contributions of the Segerstrom family, whose unwavering commitment has been at the core of the Center’s success.
The Samueli Theater is part of the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall but has its own distinctive entrance. With large frosted glass panels illuminated from behind that produce a subtle glow against the building’s white, limestone façade, the theater is accessible from the Arts Plaza or Anton Boulevard, in Costa Mesa.
The philosophy behind the Samueli Family Foundation is the belief that grants should help to improve the quality of life for all. The Foundation’s strategy has been one of thoughtful investment; being pro-active in seeking out agencies that exemplify qualities of creativity, sustainability and entrepreneurial vision. – Henry and Susan Samueli
Most of Segerstrom Center For The Art’s (SCFTA) Jazz Club, Concert Series and the Cabaret Series artists perform in Samueli Theater, which is transformed into a casual nightclub setting. The 500-seat theater, opened in 2006, is designed to accommodate various uses and configurations, including traditional theater-style seating, theater-in-the-round, or cabaret-style with cocktail tables for intimate seating clusters. The room also functions as a recital space, and is available for banquets, meetings, seminars and other special events in Costa Mesa. It can also be completely open for the indie-band concerts. The Samueli Theater is named in recognition of the $10 million gift from the Henry Samueli family. Henry Samueli is the chairman of Broadcom and a committed philanthropist.
During Henry Segerstrom’s term as chairman of the board of the Orange County Performing Arts Center in the late 1980s, a feasibility study was commissioned to determine community interest in the performing arts. Beyond expectations, the results of the study showed that the performing arts had become a vital and essential activity for Orange County and an even larger facility was actually desired. Consequently it was decided that a concert hall would be the next phase in the growth of the Orange County Performing Arts fulcrum. Over the next several years the project progressed and conceptual plans were drawn. In 1995 Henry Segerstrom was honored and named founding chairman of the Orange County Performing Arts Center. The reality for a Segerstrom Center for the Arts was in place.
While in 1999 as the Segerstrom cultural complex was expanding, the Segerstrom family donated six acres for a proposed 2,000-seat concert hall, a 500-seat theater, and land for the relocation site for the Orange County Museum of Art building, as well as a centralized public plaza area. The gift also incorporated additional land for the South Coast Repertory Theater to add its third audience area stage. Together, the complex of three performing arts facilities would eventually be named Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
The fund-raising for the new concert hall also started in 1999. In 2000 Renée Segerstrom passed away. She and Henry had worked a number of years on the project together. In her memory, he made a personal decision to be the lead donor for the concert hall and provided the first personal cash gift of $40 million to the Center’s $200 million capital campaign. This was the largest charitable cash gift in the history of Orange County. Later in the campaign, Henry would personally commit another $11 million, raising the total to $51 million.
“….Orange County is at this cutting edge in experimenting with materials and forms. And this is a building that acknowledges the past, is respectful of the past, but is really a building that addresses the future, a building that will spend most of its life in the 21st century, in the third millennium. It has to be looking forward. The materials help us to do this in a very forceful, clear, unambiguous way.”
– Cesar Pelli, on Plaza Tower