San Francisco Social Diary: Celebrating Henry Segerstrom in Orange County, CA

The late Henry Segerstrom, public arts champion and founder of Orange County luxury shopping center South Coast Plaza, was honored during the Plaza’s 50th anniversary celebration that culminated in a Mariinsky Orchestra performance in Segerstrom Concert Hall.

On the 50th anniversary of the prestigious South Coast Plaza luxury shopping center in Costa Mesa, California, Elizabeth Segerstrom and her family honored the memory of her late husband, developer and plaza creator Henry Segerstrom.

Three days of activities and celebrations in Orange County culminated on October 30 in a concert at Segerstrom Hall by the Mariinsky Orchestra, conducted by Maestro Valery Gergiev, general and artistic director of the Mariinsky in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Valery Gergiev (left, with Russian pianist Denis Matsuev) is general director and artistic director of the Mariinsky Theatre, chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic, and artistic director of the White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg.


South Coast Plaza is one of the most prestigious shopping destinations in the world, with more than 30 restaurants and 250 stores that house such luxury brands as Tiffany & Co., Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Chanel.

The Plaza is in Costa Mesa about 40 miles southeast of Los Angeles in Orange County. California’s third most populous county, it owes its prosperity to visionary developer Henry Segerstrom.

The original Plaza site was a lima bean farm owned by the Segerstrom family, but Henry foresaw a different future for the property.


In the early 1960s, when the Segerstrom family initially conceived of replacing farmlands with a large retail center in Costa Mesa, many considered the area too sparsely settled to support it. Henry presciently hired a land-planning consultant and successfully lobbied the state highway planner to reroute the soon-to-be built Interstate 405 (San Diego Freeway from LA to San Diego) right through his property.

That move brought hundreds of thousands of people within a 30-minute drive of the future South Coast Plaza, which would become the most prestigious and highest-grossing shopping center in America.

Cousins Hal and Henry Segerstrom, whose family leasing and developing business grew throughout the early 20th century.

The Segerstrom business culminated with the 1967 opening of Henry’s magnum opus, the South Coast Plaza.


Under mother Nellie Ruth Segerstrom’s influence, Henry and the entire Segerstrom family believed that public and performing arts were indispensable to metropolitan development, and the Plaza complex continues to be guided by that vision today.

In 1972, the Segerstrom family donated an acre of land for the South Coast Repertory Theatre Company’s new home. They later donated five more acres and $1 million to create the Orange County Performing Arts Center, which opened in 1986.

In 2011, the Center was renamed the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Its 14-acre campus now includes the South Coast Repertory Theatre, Segerstrom Hall, The Samueli Theater, the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, and is also the future site of the Orange County Museum of Art.

Richard Lippold’s Fire Bird sculpture was architecturally designed into both the interior and exterior of the Performing Arts Center in 1985.

One of the wings of the 60 x 120 x 100-foot Fire Bird penetrates the glass façade, completing inside the lobby.

Richard Serra’s Connector was commissioned by Henry and Elizabeth Segerstrom in 2005 as a focal point to “connect” the 14-acre art institutions complex.

The South Coast Plaza’s Jewel Court features a stained-glass domed ceiling designed by Marion Sampler in 1973.


The anniversary celebration of Henry’s life and work began when Elizabeth Segerstrom graciously opened her home on Balboa Island to host an elegant high tea in honor of Her Royal Highness (HRH) Princess Michael of Kent.

Balboa Island, surrounded by beach and water, is just 4 miles from Costa Mesa. Henry Segerstrom again showed his foresight by commissioning Mexican architect Luis Barragán to build his dream house. The home is filled with artworks by Picasso, Helen Frankenthaler, Matisse, and Calder, among others.

Jaynine Warner, Susan Bradey, and Elizabeth Segerstrom welcomed guests.

Guest of honor HRH Princess Michael of Kent.

The tea also served as a launch party for HRH Princess Michael of Kent’s new autobiography, A Cheetah’s Tale.

Pritzker Prize-winning Mexican architect Luis Barragán designed the waterfront house.

The bewitching house is flooded with natural light, decorated in a fresh white palette, filled with a profusion of white roses and orchids, and offers a view of boats on the water.

The opulence of the tea, which offered guests mounds of caviar, champagne, and exquisite sweets, set the tone for the next few days.

Carol Perry, Deborah Bridges, Barbara Johnson, Donna Kendall, and Valerie von Sobel.

Dee Higby, Jaynine Warner, Jane Driscoll, Marta Bhathal, and Betty Huang.

Ethan Morgan, Marshall Watson, and Scott Keifer.

Ron Bakken, Tim Addams, Mary McFadden, Christopher Mason, and Olivia Karina.

Elizabeth Segerstrom and HRH Princess Michael of Kent.


Later, we took a tour of South Coast Plaza and searched out the Noguchi Garden that we had heard so much about. Since Henry felt that art available to all is a key ingredient for successful urban centers, he made sure to include gardens, fountains, and sculptures throughout the South Coast Plaza complex. We were joined by Malcolm C. Nolen, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Noguchi Museum in New York.

Henry commissioned Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi to create a garden shared by office buildings within the Plaza campus. Noguchi requested full creative control, and the resulting California Scenario sculpture garden is considered one of California’s most beautiful and unusual gardens.

Hidden among three office building, Isamu Noguchi’s California Scenario sculpture garden feels like a private oasis.

California Scenario reflects geographic characteristics of California and incorporates indigenous plants and materials.

“Desert Land” is among six principal elements comprising California Scenario, in addition to “Forest Walk,” “Land Use,” “Water Source,” “Water Use,” and “Energy Fountain.”

The “Forest Walk” element represents California’s redwood forests.

The garden sculpture The Spirit of the Lima Bean is named to honor the friendship between Henry Segerstrom and Noguchi.

Our group exploring the magnificent sculpture garden.


Though I was curious to catch a glimpse of Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall earlier in the day, I purposely waited until the night of the 50th anniversary celebration—and as I had expected, I was stunned by it, inside and out. Designed by architect César Pelli, it features undulating glass walls on the exterior and matching balconies of exotic wood within.

The glass façade of the Segerstrom Concert Hall creates an ever-changing composition of reflections, transparencies, and highlights.

The stunning 2,000-seat capacity Concert Hall’s curves are intended to carry viewers’ eyes right to the orchestra.

Elizabeth Segerstrom sat in the first box, flanked by actress Helen Mirren, film director Taylor Hackford, opera icon Placido Domingo, Houston philanthropist Lynn Wyatt, HRH Princess Michael of Kent, and the London-born (now LA-based) philanthropist Lyn Rothman.

On the opposite side of the stage in a box hosted by Anton and Jennifer Segerstrom with Henry Segerstrom’s sister Ruth Ann Segerstrom Moriarty: architect Frank Gehry and his wife Berta Isabel Aguilera, Forbes Publishing Vice Chairman Christopher “Kip” Forbes, and American Ballet Theatre’s Kevin McKenzie (the Segerstrom Center is his company’s winter home).

The audience also included the LA County Museum of Art’s Michael Govan, arts education advocate Malissa Shriver, HSH Prince Veriand Windisch-Graetz and his son HSH Prince Charles WindischGraetz, and artist Bill Viola with his wife Kira Perov and son Blake Viola.

Naturally, the fashion industry was well-represented too, by luminaries including Macy’s Inc. executive chairman Terry Lundgren and his wife Tina, LVHM chairman and CEO Anish Melwani, Richemont North American CEO and president Daniel Mawicke, and Stella McCartney America president Ida Simonsen.

Opera icon Placido Domingo, Houston philanthropist Lynn Wyatt, philanthropist Lyn Rothman, Caroline Graham, HRH Princess Michael of Kent, and Elizabeth Segerstrom.

Actor Ralph Fiennes, actress Helen Mirren, and film director Taylor Hackford.

Maestro Valery Gergiev and Elizabeth Segerstrom.

Blake Viola, Kira Perov, and artist Bill Viola.

American Ballet Theatre Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie.

Ruth Ann Segerstrom Moriarty (Henry’s sister), Elizabeth Segerstrom, and Ralph Fiennes.

Placido Domingo and Mexican politician Esteban Moctezuma.

Jeanne Lawrence and actress Helen Mirren.

Prince Hugo Veriand Windisch-Graetz, HRH Princess Michael of Kent, and Prince Charles Windisch-Graetz.

Arts education advocate Malissa Shriver, architect Frank Gehry, and his wife Berta Isabel Aguilera.

Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez and her husband Jack Einwechter.

Tina Lundgren and Terry Lundgren, executive chairman of Macy’s, Inc.

Jennifer Segerstrom and Anton Segerstrom, Henry Segerstrom’s son and South Coast Plaza Managing Partner.

Fashion designer Mary McFadden and philanthropist Valerie Von Sobel.

Gordon Clune and his wife Elizabeth An, of AnQi restaurant in South Coast Plaza.

Model Nick Bateman and Instagram personality Maria Corrigan.

Dave Warner and Janine Warner, co-founder and executive director of SembraMedia.

Model Clara Wilsey.

Ryan Wynne and actress Jamie La Barber.

South Coast Plaza Executive Director of Marketing Debra Gunn-Downing, Chuck Kanter, and Susan Brady.

Eva Hsieh and entrepreneur and philanthropist Ming Hsieh.

Forbes Publishing Vice Chairman Kip Forbes.

Joan and John Hotchkis.

Eva Stern and Los Angeles Opera Chair Marc Stern.

Ishani Dhillon, Renee Degner, jewelry designer Rosalina Lydster, and restaurateur Hannah An.

Belle Cohen and C Magazine Editorial Director Jennifer Hale.

Martine and Prosper Assouline, who hosted a breakfast earlier that day at their Assouline Bookstore in South Coast Plaza, with branches at the Plaza and the Mark hotels in Manhattan.

Mary McFadden and Jeanne Lawrence.

Katherine Ross, Lynn Wyatt, and LA County Museum of Art Director Michael Govan.


The much anticipated Mariinsky Orchestra, under the baton of Maestro Valery Gergiev, gave a thrilling concert. It included selections from Richard Strauss’s Don Juan and Ein Heldenleben, plus Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 3.

Both the performance and the words of Maestro Gergiev were memorable. The conductor paid heartfelt tribute to his dear friend Henry Segerstrom, with whom he’d bonded through art. Gergiev touchingly recalled how he’d flown in from a concert to be with Henry in the final hours of his life.

For the encore, the orchestra played the final movement of Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky, against a montage that paid tribute to Henry Segerstrom.


Guests next moved on to a private gala dinner on the terrace of the Concert Hall, surrounded by 8,000 cascading white Phalaenopsis orchids. I have never witnessed such an abundance of flowers so artistically arranged. Elizabeth wanted the 50th anniversary to be spectacular—and she does love white flowers.

“The concert was thrilling,” Lynn Wyatt said, greeting Maestro Gergiev.  “It was worth every mile I flew to get here. I would have walked every mile to hear it.”

Six trumpeters heralded the beginning of dinner.

“Perhaps of all arts, music is the one that can sidestep language,” said actor Ralph Fiennes in his pre-dinner speech. “Music reaches straight to the soul, putting borders and political and national differences out of focus. Music, I believe, is the great healer.” He praised Segerstrom’s commitment to art, excellence, and friendship, and his “loving wife, Elizabeth Segerstrom, who keeps it going forward.”


The next day, we were excited to have been invited to ride aboard architect and avid sailor Frank Gehry’s sailing yacht, Foggy (named after the acronym for Frank Owen Gehry). It was moored at the private Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach, the legendary playground of the rich and famous.

A few even had the chance to ride in the sleek black Frauscher Mirage high-performance speedboat that was used in in the James Bond movie Spectre. What a nice way for Maestro Gergiev to spend his first day off in six months! (He is always on the road.)

Lyn Rothman, HRH Princess Michael of Kent, Elizabeth Segerstrom, and Valerie von Sobel.

Wayne Baruch and Frier McCollister.

Cassydy Berliner and Jackie Rose.

Mary McFadden, Jonathan Marder, and Valerie von Sobel.

Foggy, the first sailboat designed by Frank Gehry, is made of traditional larch wood with titanium accents.

A glass latticework on the deck glimmers and allows light into the hull below.

The living and sleeping areas within the hull are lined with wood and carpeted with a multi-colored pattern.

The iconic and exclusive Balboa Island is dotted with private homes, and is accessible only by a two-lane bridge and ferryboat.

This black Frauscher Mirage speedboat was featured in the James Bond movie Spectre.

Several practicing crew teams passed us by as we sailed the bay.

Chuck Kanter, Debra Gunn Downing, Jeff Rawlins, and Max Rawlins.

Jeanne Lawrence and Jeff Rawlins.

The final boat ride sailed out to watch the sunset.

We capped off the exciting days with dinner at the recently opened Nobu, where we toasted to an unforgettable weekend celebrating 50 successful years—and looked forward to more!


Photography by Jeanne Lawrence, BFA Photos, Patrick McMullan Company, courtesy Segerstrom Family, and courtesy South Coast Plaza.

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