Ask architect and historian Alan Hess to name the most famous master-planned churches in America and he will describe Reston, Virginia. Columbia, Maryland; and Irvine, California.
Urged to name the best, he says, “Irvine is the best of them all. It is the largest and most successful application of important advanced planning ideas since 1900. “
Hess moved to Irvine 15 years ago because of his master plan and now conducts architectural walks that illustrate his success.
It was here that the concepts he learned at UCLA’s School of Architecture and Urban Planning were brought to life.
“I’m an architect, so I’m interested in how you take ideas and realize them,” he says. “Irvine Company has done this to a remarkable extent.”
As we walk along a green belt in his community in University Park, Hess describes the personal benefits of the master plan. “Everything is close,” he says, pointing to the green belt.
“There’s the library, the school, the parks, the pools, and the shops. It creates a sense of community. “
The architect Alan Hess gives Monica Pereira (right), the daughter of the famous architect William Pereira, who created the Irvine master plan, and Evelyn Kroener a tour of the Irvine. Hess’ walking tours illustrate the success of Irvine’s master plan.
“It’s like utopia”
The master plan was intended to counter the unbridled growth of Los Angeles in the 1950s.
As this sprawl of residential areas and shopping malls neared the Irvine Ranch, the Irvine Company asked famous architect William Pereira to design a brand new city – one that was planned with a major university at its center.
She wanted a city that reconciled the population with employment and freedom. this upheld the highest standards of architecture and design; and that focused on education.
And that’s exactly what Pereira delivered with the Irvine master plan.
Irvine’s green belts and paths connect residents with schools, libraries, parks, pools and shopping areas – creating a sense of community.
“He had the opportunity to do something on a grand scale,” says Hess. “He created a community in balance. That makes Irvine nationally significant. “
Rather than being absorbed by Los Angeles, Irvine became a model city known nationwide for its schools, security, parks, open spaces, employment, and design.
“I spoke to some of the original owners who came from Los Angeles 50 years ago,” says Hess, “and they said it was like utopia.”
Hess, who has written 20 books on architecture and planning and is a member of the State Historical Resources Commission, is thrilled with why.
That is why he gives hikes to planners, architects and historians from all over the world.
“I want people to know about Irvine,” he says, “and about the master plan.