By Peter Walker
Peter Walker’s involvement with Henry Segerstrom actually dated from the early 1970s when he and his colleagues refashioned a lima bean field into a five-acre naturalistic park—with curvilinear paths, mounds, and groves of deciduous trees and conifers—which over the years has graced the outdoors of Town Center plaza.
Peter Walker and his firm were hired in 1991 to interpret and elevate the space that separated a parking garage from the César Pelli-designed Plaza Tower. Henry Segerstrom wanted to create a pedestrian plaza in front of the office tower that would take in a view of the nearby Performing Arts Center and Segerstrom Hall.

Walker’s intuitive and intellectual affinity for rhythms, patterns, and order created a Cartesian synthesis for the design of the entry court to the Plaza Tower building. The landscape design outlined a series of four-inch bands of steel embedded in the pavement that functioned as a visual connector to the building with its separate parking structure. Twin fountains composed of stainless steel concentric rings that form a series of alternating weirs and pools frame the entry court.

Walker also designed the arrivals garden, the ramped entrance to the Performing Arts Center, planting geometric boxwood hedges, and designed a sunken water garden for Center Tower where Henry situated two sculptures by Carl Milles that he had acquired in 1985. Walker’s conceptual order imbued his garden with a sense of unique place. His minimal and intriguing landscapes complemented Pelli’s Plaza Tower, and South Coast Plaza Town Center could now offer a pleasing and viable pedestrian-oriented locale for business, commerce, recreation, and culture in Orange County. In recognition of the design for Plaza Tower and South Coast Plaza Town Center, the American Association of Landscape Architects honored Peter Walker and his firm in 1994 for their creative achievements.

Shaping a strong tradition of Modernist landscape design in the U.S. and throughout the world, Walker has helped to create a vocabulary that continues to drive design. Whether a pedestrian walk or through the National 9/11 Memorial and many other notable projects, he has fashioned spaces that beautify and commemorate some of the most important places and events in history.