JON JERDE OBITUARY
LOS ANGELES, February 9, 2015 -- Visionary architect Jon Adams Jerde, FAIA, who originated “placemaking” in cities around the globe, reinventing the shopping center as an experiential and entertainment destination, died today at his home in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles after a longstanding illness. Founder and chairman of The Jerde Partnership based in Venice, CA, he led a multi-disciplinary team that designed more than 100 urban places around the world as well as created the look of the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Jerde’s passion was to design places for everyone, not an elite few, and he succeeded beyond his dreams. Jerde Places are enjoyed by over one billion visitors each year and have spawned countless imitators worldwide.
Jerde was born January 22, 1940, in Alton, Ill, but wryly characterized himself as “oilfield trash” because he grew up in oilfields around the West, moving with his father, an engineer for Fluor. After his parents divorced in 1952, he and his mother moved to a garage apartment in Long Beach where he spent hours building cities out of scrap and visiting the Long Beach Pier where he found a sense of community. After graduation from Woodrow Wilson High School, he enrolled in engineering at UCLA where he paid the low tuition by hashing food at a fraternity. A chance meeting in 1958 with Arthur Gallion, dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Southern California, changed his life. Seeing Jerde’s sketches, Dean Gallion recognized his innate talent and found funding for him to study architecture at USC where leading landscape architect Emmet Wemple became a mentor and lifelong friend.
A trip to Europe on a traveling fellowship from USC after graduation in 1966 crystallized a point of view that would influence his life’s work -- that people sought places where they could find the warmth of community while enjoying shopping, dining, entertainment, promenading and people watching. This philosophy fueled what he defined as placemaking – creating memorable places that pulsed with life and community using entertainment and shopping as catalysts. Over the years Jerde Places have proven to be economic and social boosters for declining urban districts from Rotterdam to Osaka to Las Vegas and San Diego.
Jerde quit architecture in 1975 after a decade designing typical suburban malls, frustrated that his ideas were ignored. He managed to initiate some of his early ideas at the Glendale Galleria in Los Angeles where he added curving walkways and covered the second floor with a huge barrel vault pierced with skylights. Soon after leaving the profession, he received a call from San Diego developer Ernest Hahn who was faced with a four block site in a rundown area of downtown San Diego. He hired Jerde and told him to put his ideas into practice. Horton Plaza violated all shopping center principles. It was open air with winding paths, staggered levels, parapets, colonnades, towers and bridges and riotous use of color. It wasn’t a shopping center at all but a village that wandered by stores and restaurants and connected downtown to the waterfront. Horton Plaza was a resounding success, drawing 25 million visitors when it opened in 1985, sparking over $2 billion in neighboring redevelopment, and continuing to be wildly popular today.
While Horton Plaza was under construction, Jerde was named “design czar” for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. He devised a kit of parts of striking architectural elements with a color palette by colleague Deborah Sussman that could be adapted at very low cost to brand hundreds of events around the city. These designs continue to be viewed as among the most memorable for any Olympic Games. It also stirred a passion for co-creativity for Jerde who later teamed with sculptor Robert Graham, writer Ray Bradbury and TED founder Richard Wurman, among others.
In 1993 City Walk at Universal Studio opened, designed by Jerde and his team as a distillation of Los Angeles architectural and graphic history. City Walk generated both praise and controversy when it opened with some critics seeing it as a parody of a city with all the grit washed away. But Angelenos of all generations, ethnicities and economic backgrounds flocked to this new public space along with millions of tourists.
1993 also saw the beginning of Jerde’s collaboration with Las Vegas impresario Steve Wynn who once noted, “Jon Jerde is the Bernini of our time.” Jerde and Wynn’s first collaboration was a pioneering venture – transforming Treasure Island into the first family resort in Las Vegas. They added a large lake and exciting retail and entertainment with decorative pirate elements and brought the first Cirque du Soleil show to Las Vegas.
When downtown casinos and bars complained that they were being abandoned, Wynn sent “his architect” to find a solution. Jerde conceived a brilliant solution – a four-block outdoor lobby for these businesses. His “Fremont Street Experience” is a light filled entertainment street with ongoing laser shows by Jeremy Railton that drew large crowds to this formerly deserted district and is still doing so today.
The most ambitious Wynn-Jerde collaboration was The Bellagio in 1996 that fused architecture, commerce and fantasy to achieve the elegance and romance sought by Wynn. Along with Italianate architecture, a large lake and dancing fountains, Jerde created a European urban experience with outdoor cafes, tree-lined promenades, bustling shopping arcades and a museum for Wynn’s art collection. Together they set a new standard for The Strip with many later casinos following in their footsteps.
Jerde’s reputation for revitalizing cities with visitor-pleasing places led to Canal City Hakata, a 2.6 million-square-foot development in Fukuoka, Japan. Canal City provided an immense canvass for the Jerde signature. With high canyon-like walls that curve around a stream, Jerde used water and nature as the pillars for a mixed use destination that revitalized the city’s dying downtown and won global renown for its imaginative design. Famed Japanese Architect Arata Isozaki cited Canal City Hakata along with Frank Gehry’s Bilbao Museum as the most important projects of the late 20th century and Newsweek called Jerde “Designer of the Decade.
Following soon after was Roppongi Hills in 2002 often called the Rockefeller Center of Tokyo and the largest privately developed project in Japan’s history. Roppongi Hills on 28.4 acres features Mori Art Center, Mori Garden, Tokyo’s largest office building, a nine-screen Cineplex, Asahi TV’s headquarters, a five-star Grand Hyatt and the world's most fashionable boutiques. Jerde's master plan combined dense mixed-use buildings with extensive landscaping and nature as unifying elements. Roppongi Hills also features a Jerde-designed subway station.
Other Jerde-designed urban regeneration projects in Japan include Dentsu Headquarters at Shiodome in Tokyo, La Cittadella in Kawasaki and Namba Parks in Osaka. Jerde’s acclaimed work in Japan resulted in a New York Times’ best-selling book, “Jerde in Japan.
Jerde was well known for having a briefcase filled with Diet Coke during travels and making In ‘n Out Burger his first stop upon return. He was also well known for an uncompromising point of view that alienated some clients.
Jerde’s last project was the reshaping of Santa Monica Place, removing the roof and opening it to the Third Street Promenade, in collaboration with fellow partner David Rogers, FAIA. A more comprehensive master plan that linked Santa Monica Place to the Santa Monica Civic Center and included residential and public space components was shelved because of community opposition.
Jerde was named a Fellow by the American Institute of Architects in 1990 and was honored as the first USC School of Architecture Distinguished Alumnus in 1985. He was very involved with the USC School of Architecture throughout his career and frequently taught courses in Los Angeles and at the school’s campus in Saintes, France. In 2000 the Jon Adams Jerde, FAIA, Chair in Architecture was established and his family funded the USC Traveling Fellowship in perpetuity in honor of Jerde being its first recipient.
Jerde is survived by his wife Architect Janice Ambry Jerde, who led a transition to shift ownership of The Jerde Partnership to its current partners in 2013. Married in 1990 they have a son, Oliver, a junior at Tulane University. Jerde and his first wife, Gail X. Factor, recently deceased, had two children, Jennifer Jerde-Castor and Christopher Jerde. He and his third wife, Cheryl Shaw Barnes, had two children Maggie Jerde-Joyce and Kate Jerde-Cole. He had no children with second wife Elizabeth McMillian. Grandchildren are Nell and Gwen Castor and Tristan James and Emmett Joyce.
A memorial service is planned at a future date. To honor his memory, contributions can be made: to the UCLA Foundation to support the work of Dr. David Reuben of the UCLA Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care Program, mark as tribute to Jon A. Jerde in the memo line, and send to UCLA Health Sciences Development, Attn: Jenn Brown, 10945 Le Conte Avenue, Ste 3132, Los Angeles, CA 90095; or to Ancient Egypt Research Associates, Inc.. 26 Lincoln Street. Boston, MA 02135; or to Jon Adams Jerde, FAIA, Endowment at USC School of Architecture, University Park Campus, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0291.