We're going to start our new "Travel By Design" series with the controversial John Jerde. I say "controversial" because Jerde has been called "the wonder boy of the outdoor shopping experience." Jerde's the man behind the huge Mall of America in Minneapolis, as well as the lakefront complex at the Bellagio in Vegas, and CityWalk in Los Angeles. He's been both acclaimed and criticized for his pre-packaged, urban designs.
So you can understand why I was surprised when Jerde chose a deserted ruin in southern France as the place that has most inspired him. How could this ancient hillside village of Les Baux de Provence connect with Jerde's ultra-modern urban structures?
I wound my way high up into Mandeville Canyon in Los Angeles and found Jerde's rustic house.
We sat by a crackling fire and talked about how he got to Les Baux de Provence in the first place.
When you look through a photo book of
Jerde's work, there's a structure he
designed in Fukuoka, Japan, where you
can actually picture the Canyon de
Chelly. It has high, canyon-like walls
that curve dramatically around a
stream. He's even made a cave-like
amphitheater, dug out of one side of the
building. It's sort of a modern-day
cliff dwelling. That trip to Europe so
many years ago still shapes how Jerde
looks at the world.
The longer we talked, I started to
understand how Les Baux de Provence meshed with
Jerde's urban vision. He's compelled to
create spaces where people can meet and
interact, not just stand back and
admire an untouchable structure.
his fellowship in Europe, Jerde came
back to the States with a desire to
become the "everyman" architect. He
started going into rundown urban
centers and reinvigorating city
economies with his designs. If
you've been to Horton Plaza in San
Diego, you can picture what I mean.
Jerde's success with Horton Plaza was
in leaving the enclosed mall behind and
creating an open-air, interesting space
with lots of curves and observation
Jon Jerde is a free thinker, that's for
sure. On the one hand, he'd like to
blow up the tourist stands in Les Baux de Provence. Yet, he builds these super-tourist attraction malls. Through Jon Jerde's eyes, I wound
up seeing the urban mall in a new way.