Photo by Jennifer Becker
Photo by Jennifer Becker

Alan Hess

Architecture critic and author Alan Hess practically defined Googie as a genre with a series of reverent books on California's generally disrespected roadside architecture. Now he's working out the untold story of Irvine. Turns out it was actually daring in its day, with a deep-rooted consideration for the environment and a hopefully utopian theory of urban planning. His in-progress book on the history of our "city of the future" could rehabilitate Irvine's beige reputation. Until it's finished, Hess is still on duty, holed up in the most master-planned accommodations 1971 could construct. But after he's done: Disneyland!

El Matador. "A great Mexican restaurant—a little hole in the wall near Triangle Square. I always have enchiladas because I'm fairly boring, but they're good. They take Mexican food a step above. They take convention and make it even better—without getting too foo-foo." 1768 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa, (949) 645-0324.

Dana Point Harbor. "It's a great piece of '70s design—the kind of thing that OC is really good at. It's apparently going to be remodeled and updated sometime in the next couple of years. But it's a great piece of design right now. It's a marina but they have restaurants and stores and so forth. I took my kids there years ago to hang out and look at boats and walk around. It's a really public social place in OC, which OC is not supposed to have." Pacific Coast Hwy. & Dana Pt., Dana Point, (949) 496-1094;

P. Lovell House."One of the greatest modern buildings in the world—it was designed by Rudolf Schindler. I'm not sure how many OC people understand or appreciate it. Right on the walk along the ocean." 1242 W. Ocean Front, Newport Beach.

South Coast Plaza."One of the best pieces of mall design in the world today. It's an old mall—there are a lot of layers to it. It has history you can see in the architecture. Instead of tearing it down, they've added to it—it's like a small city in the way it's grown. And they've created public places around the edges: restaurants and sidewalk cafes, except they aren't sidewalk cafes but parking lot cafes, which I think is just a wonderful concept." 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (714) 241-1700;

Book Soup. "I always check to see if they have my books—and usually they have two or three." 3333 Bristol St., Ste. 2400, Costa Mesa, (714) 689-2665;

University Community Park Greenbelt. "It's spectacular. It opens up into a wonderful little wooded kind of four corners, where two pathways cross and it opens up and they put a bench or a kiddie play structure. It has a forest cover—big trees that make it nice and shady. It's just beautifully done—it's like walking through a highly manicured forest with little cottages on either side. But modern cottages." 1 Beech Tree Ln., Irvine, (949) 724-6815.

Roger's Gardens. "The commercial nursery that is the heart of Newport. It has that sense of wealth and abundance and also a sense of superficiality about the nature of design—yet it does it so well. It captures the sense of place of that part of OC. I took my kids there at Christmas time to see the displays of all the trees." 2301 San Joaquin Hills Rd., Corona del Mar, (949) 640-5800;

Pacific Coast Highway."It's just incredible, at any time of year. I've driven it in a '59 Corvette convertible and that was ideal. Now I drive a Volvo but I always like to think of that Corvette. I usually drive between Corona del Mar and Dana Point but I also like up north around Huntington where it becomes more industrial—between the power plant and the wide open spaces and beaches and wetlands, it just feels big and isolated. And a little bit gritty. It's different than Laguna Beach. PCH has character. And it keeps changing."

Disneyland at dusk."It's a great people place and a good environment—just before the fireworks, when people are relaxed and a little tired and they've just eaten their meals, and the sun's gone down and the lights are coming out. A great public place. I haven't got my annual pass yet—I'm working on deadline for a book now, and when I've finished I'm going to Disneyland! And I'm not getting paid to say that either!" 1313 S Harbor Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 781-4000;


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