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The Under-the-Radar Architect Behind America's Most Extravagant Mall Architecture

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The Bellagio on the Las Vegas Strip. Minnesota's Mall of America. The Universal Citywalk. All of these glittering, crowd-happy destinations (and plenty more across the country) were the handiwork of Jon Jerde, the late American architect and urbanist that you may not know about but certainly should. While faux public spaces, from the aforementioned tourist spots to generic local malls, are so ubiquitous today, they were at one point rather avant-garde. Jerde, who passed away last month at age 75, is remembered in a new obituary over at Architect Magazine, in which writer Karrie Jacobs explores Jerde's singular vision to transform crossroads of American consumerism into, appealing, albeit more or less contrived, "communal experiences."

Jerde, who founded his design studio over thirty years ago and grew it into an international firm with more than 100 projects completeed all over the world, clings passionately to his role as a "placemaker." His website's tagline is "PlaceMaking since 1977" and his projects are called "Jerde Places." But as Jacobs writes, unlike other big names in the placemaking movement that began in the 1960s—notably Jane Jacobs — Jerde focused not on urban renewal by way of density and urban parks, but by "fashioning private space that mimicked public space."

Over the years, this approach—which Jacobs (the writer, not the urban activist) says "generally uses publicly spirited strategies to further consumption"—has taken many forms. A "Jerde Place," for example, can look like:

...Fremont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas, a 140-meter long covered pedestrian mall that boasts 2.1 million lights on its ceiling.

...Horton Plaza in San Diego, California, an 11-acre urban district with vibrantly-colored buildings and a double-curved pedestrian street—mixing in shopping, dining, theaters, hotels, and offices.

...New World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta, Georgia, the redeveloped 20-acre attraction that hosts complex of theaters and tasting rooms, alongside a patch of greenery and reflecting pool.

...Kanyon in Istanbul, Turkey, a 240,000-square-foot open-air "live, work, play" complex defined by winding courtyards and terraces and one dramatic amphitheater.

...and Canal City Hakata in Fukuoka, Japan, a shopping and cinema district that relishes in vegetation and streaming water.

The next time you head out to a buzzing public attraction, watch out for theatrical lights, vivacious colors, and an indulgent use of space, and you might have stepped into a Jerde Place, or at least something inspired by one of his grand designs.

· Remembering Jon Jerde [Architect Magazine]
· All Urban Planning coverage [Curbed National]