By César Pelli
Plaza Tower’s distinct architecture is a defining feature of the Orange County skyline. As part of the conception plan for South Coast Plaza Town Center, a twenty-one-story office tower for IBM was commissioned in 1990.

The internationally recognized architect César Pelli was selected to design Plaza Tower. The structure features a stainless steel skin rather than one of stone or glass. In 1990, stainless steel was still a relatively new material for an entire office tower.

The use of the metal, which is some 20 percent more expensive than most other materials—according to Pelli—is rare as an exterior surface. Its use in this project was “considerably more difficult and complicated than I imagined,” Pelli has said in an interview.

“Even slight variations in the production of the steel panels, which were produced in Germany, affect the way the material reflects the light. The slightest stress creates dimples that are highly visible. It requires an enormous amount of control. 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. The curve is always alive and buildings, people, need to be alive.”
—César Pelli, on Plaza Tower