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Courtesy of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners
Exterior rendering by Carlos Diniz / Courtesy of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners

Beyond providing 332 guest rooms in close proximity to the Orange County Performing Arts Center then under construction (completed in 1986), the Regent Hotel in Costa Mesa was an exercise in urban placemaking. Accepting and reinforcing the geometry of the Art Center’s facade, which tilts toward Town Center Drive at a 30-degree angle, the hotel adopted the same 30-degree angle to configure its own facade and side walls in an irregular “U” at the opposite end of the site. By closing the street to through-traffic, the previously amorphous space was transformed into a pedestrian precinct and grand civic plaza in keeping with the scale and ambitions of the developing cultural center.

The 5-story stucco hotel was inspired by Southern California’s Spanish-mission-style adobe structures and outdoor arcades offering protection from the sun. Perhaps less obvious is the influence of Fragrant Hill Hotel, which Pei was then completing after a parallel search for the roots of Chinese cultural tradition. As in Beijing, and as permitted by Costa Mesa’s warm climate, the hotel is organized around a series of internal courtyards and gardens. Oversize geometric windows similarly frame important views, while ceramic tiles enliven the off-white exterior and relieve the hotel from the monotony of endlessly repetitive guest rooms.

Pei began work on the hotel in Costa Mesa just weeks before he was awarded the Louvre commission. After two years of design and development, the hotel project stalled just months before construction was projected to begin as Regent management refocused on the development of more intensely urban areas. Five years later, in 1988, Pei would again be commissioned by the Regent to design a new hotel in New York (Four Seasons).

Design Team: I. M. Pei, Design Partner; W. Stephen Wood, Design Architect
I.M. Pei & Partners