(credit: Thinkstock)

From green to gorgeous, Orange County prides itself on architecture that is recognized throughout the country and world. Architects note that new residential architecture designs frequently begin in Orange County and then spread throughout the country. Check out these places for some of the best architecture the area has to offer.

(credit: crystalcathedral.org)

Crystal Cathedral
13280 Chapman Ave
Garden Grove, CA 92840
(714) 971-4000

The Crystal Cathedral was chosen as one of the most beautiful and architecturally-significant buildings in the United States by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 2007. More than 10,000 panes of silver-colored, tempered glass cover the entire structure, which has two 90-foot doors behind the pulpit that open electronically during some services. The building was designed by the architectural firm of Johnson/Burgee.

(credit: scfta.org)

Segerstrom Center for the Arts
600 Town Center Drive
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 556-2121

The Segerstrom Center for the Arts was originally known as the Orange County Performing Arts Center. The Center campus includes the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, Segerstrom Hall and the Samuelli Theater. The Center was built entirely through private funding and was selected by the American Institute of Architects’ Orange County chapter in 2007 for its exceptional architecture. There is a virtual tour on the center’s website, and tours on site are led by a docent.

(credit: encenter.org)

Environmental Nature Center
1601 16th St
Newport Beach, CA 92663
(949) 645-8489

In 2008, the Environmental Nature Center became the first building in Orange County to receive LEED Platinum certification for its Learning Center. The LEED certification is the highest rating given for environmentally responsible buildings. Buildings must qualify in six categories that evaluate sustainability in land, water, energy and material usage to indoor environmental quality and design innovation in order to receive a Platinum certification. This center was designed by LPA, Inc., an architectural firm with offices in Orange County.

(credit: cityofmissionviejo.org)

Mission Viejo Library
100 Civic Center
Mission Viejo, CA 92691
(949) 830-7100

The Mission Viejo Library serves as an educational and cultural center for its community. Library construction for this city library was completed in 2002. Another LPA, Inc. project, the building includes features designed to make it aesthetically pleasing—from a stone fireplace to seating areas where the sun streams in.

(credit: visitnewportbeach.com)

Cannery Lofts
30th Street
Newport Beach, CA 92663

Located in the historic Cannery Village in Newport Beach are 22 residential/business lofts designed by architectural firm Tannerhecht. The project, called the Cannery Lofts, helped transform a light-industrial area into a pedestrian-friendly area that supports small professional businesses. With waterfront views and pedestrian-friendly courtyards, the project received rave reviews from the industry when it opened in 2005. Consider checking this project out when businesses in Cannery Village are open to take full advantage of the location.

Do you have a favorite building or example of great architecture? Please comment on the above locations or leave a suggestion that others should see.

Terry Ambrose is a freelance and mystery writer living in Vista. His work can be found at Examiner.com.