Monday, February 9, 2015

Architect Jon Jerde dies at 75

The world of architecture lost one of its greats this week, losing Jon Jerde, founder of the Venice-based The Jerde Partnership at the age of 75.

For me personally, my first introduction to Jerde's work was visiting San Diego's Horton Plaza for the first time not long after it opened.  Having grown up shopping mostly at enclosed shopping malls or traditional department stores, Horton's focus on outdoor spaces and the breaking of traditional rules brought home the idea that good architecture is, as Goethe said, frozen music.

It was really Horton Plaza which launched the idea of a reinvigorated downtown San Diego way back in 1985, and in its first year it attracted 30 million visitors (far more than the hoped-for 9 million).  Other open-air malls -- often part of large mixed-use projects -- have sprung up across the world over the last 30 years, but I think we still have Jerde to thank for putting the first example of a different kind of mall on the map.

Jerde and his firm took similar ideas to Las Vegas for The Bellagio resort and hotel, which, with its attention to detail, still ranks among the city's finest and most architecturally significant properties despite opening 17 years ago.  Jerde was also the vision behind Universal City's CityWalk, which is still just as vibrant and relevant at it was when it opened in 1993.

If you visit Jerde's Web site, you'll see the types of projects his firm has been working on (and still continues to do) all over the world.  While there are many important jobs in the development and building of new projects, the built environment simply wouldn't exist without architects, and certainly those like Jerde who push the profession to greater heights than before.

You can read a more detailed obituary on the L.A. Times Web site here.

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