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Obituary: Jon Jerde (1940 – 2015)

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Architect and world-famous shopping mall designer Jon Jerde has died aged 75

The Jerde Partnership-founder – widely recognised for revolutionising modern shopping centre design – passed away on Monday (9 February) at his home in Brentwood, Los Angeles.

The 75 year-old architect was suffering from cancer and Alzheimer’s disease before his death.

Jerde opened his practice in 1977 when shopping mall developer Ernie Hahn commissioned him to design a new retail complex in the run-down city centre of San Diego.

Prior to this appointment Jerde had spent around 10 years designing suburban shopping malls which he found ‘creatively stifling’.

When it opened in 1985, the brightly coloured, five-storey Horton Plaza shopping centre in San Diego was hugely successful.

Jerde’s unconventional approach – which focused on multi-layered outdoor circulation spaces and visual theatre – redefined attitudes towards urban shopping mall design.

Previously commenting on Jerde’s career, former UCLA architecture school dean Richard Weinstein said: ‘He blew open the shopping mall and transformed it into a lively urban environment which attracts people, lots of people.’

The landmark development – which received 25 million visitors in its first year – saw Jerde go on to win a string of major city centre retail commissions including Newport Beach’s Fashion Island and the Mall of America in Minnesota.

The studio was also chosen to design to design temporary structures, decorations and signage for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games.

Casino owner Steve Wynn commissioned Jerde to redesign the façade of Las Vegas’ Treasure Island casino in 1993 and to design the new Bellagio casino in 1998.

Commenting on the architects’ death in a statement published by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, he said: ‘Jon Jerde was a warm and delightful friend and gifted architect.

‘My colleagues and I had the pleasure of collaborating with him on the design of Bellagio and, in addition, Elaine Wynn and I joined with he and his wife, Janice, in the design of our Shadow Creek home. That residence reflected the elegance and the warmth of Jon’s creativity. We will all miss him.’

Peter Coleman, head of retail at BDP, commented: ‘I believe Jon Jerde was ahead of the rest of us,  in that he brought the importance of  urban design and place making to the  forefront of retail design , making unique experiences and moving away from inward looking amorphous places, long before the “Urban Agenda” came on the horizon in the UK.’

Simon Blore of Lead said: ‘Jon Jerde and his firm were pioneers in mixed use project design; and they certainly led the way in the 1980’s and 1990’s in Place Making and creating people places, so they were always a bench-mark for us as designers in a similar sector. A Jerde project can always be recognised, as they have a distinct character, and a commitment to deliver an experiential journey for the users.’

More recent projects included Japan’s Canal City Hakata which featured a canal water feature at its heart and was completed in 1996.

The architect’s final project was an overhaul of Frank Gehry’s 1980 Santa Monica Place shopping mall which the firm completed in 2010.

Jerde is survived by his fourth wife Janice Ambry Jerde and by five of his children and four grandchildren.


Peter Coleman, head of retail, BDP
‘Jon Jerde was ahead of the rest of us, in that he brought the importance of  urban design and place making to the  forefront of retail design, making unique experiences and moving away from inward looking amorphous places, long before the ‘Urban Agenda’ came on the horizon in the UK.’

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