Considered the most influential retail designer of his era by many observers, Jon Jerde's work is seen and experienced by nearly 675 million people a year. From the Mall of America in Minneapolis to Universal CityWalk in Los Angeles, Jerde's fingerprints are on many of the most iconic shopping destinations in the United States. In addition to pioneering mixed-use design in Asia, Jerde is currently working on several new U.S. projects, including Simon Property Group's Coconut Point in Bonita Springs, Fla., Xentury City's 300 acre, master-planned community in suburban Orlando, Fla. and Thomas Enterprises' 700 acre North Rim community in San Antonio.
A graduate of the University of Southern California School of Architecture, Jerde cut his teeth in retail during a 13-year stint as design director for Los Angeles-based shopping center developer Charles Kober Associates. In 1977, he formed the Jerde Partnership, a 100-employee firm based in Venice Beach, Calif. He first made an impact on the industry in 1985 with the phenomenally successful redevelopment of downtown San Diego's blighted Horton Plaza. The project's whimsical design, which includes 39 different colors and evokes an Italian hill town, continues to influence open-air, mixed-use urban design throughout the world.
Instead of striving for a signature style like some other architecture firms, Jerde incorporates such disparate influences as European villages, nature and medieval Japan into his designs. “At the end of the day, the space he creates is one that retailers like to be in to sell their goods and services, and where the customer likes to browse or make their hard purchases,” says John Gilchrist, an owner of retail development and consultant firm Corti Gilchrist, which hired Jerde to work on Horton Plaza.
Jerde's forte seems to be integrating retail into the various other components of a mixed-use development. His firm won a 2004 SADI Award for La Cittadella — a multilevel shopping center in Kawasaki, Japan that creates a neighborhood unto itself. As U.S. developers seek distinction in an increasingly competitive market, more and more are turning to Jerde.
“You can't pull retail out separately from the rest of life anymore,” Jerde says. “Everything is in collusion to make up our quality of life and that gets you involved in some big projects.