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EXPERT Q&A: Making Places

Jon Jerde has been designing retail real estate environments for decades. Horton Plaza, which opened in San Diego in 1985, was considered revolutionary at the time, and more than 20 years later is still singled out as one of the best retail settings in the U.S. In recent years, Jerde and his firm, The Jerde Partnership, have focused overseas, designing projects like the 2004 Grand SADI winner Namba Parks in Japan. Most recently, the firm celebrated the grand opening of the 2.7 million square-foot Kanyan mixed-use project in Istanbul, Turkey.

Jerde took time to discuss that project and others the firm has in the works, as well as to talk about what U.S. developers have to learn from their overseas counterparts.

Retail Traffic: Your latest project, Kanyan, just opened in Turkey. How is this similar to or different from other projects your firm has done recently?

Jerde: They're very different. They all have a signature style, but you'll never see what we do as identical. Every project is different in that it reaches different cultures, is in different environmental settings and has a different audience. Our newest projects will end up touching Arabic people and Polish people and Eastern Europeans.

RT: It seems much of the work your firm is doing is international. Why is that?

Jerde: If Steve Wynn had not caught us to do the World Market Center in Las Vegas, we might not be doing anything in the U.S. at all. American developers are very conservative and they tend to repeat one another. The World Market Center, as a 12-million-square-foot project, is in a new category, so we had more freedom there. But in Japan and Europe, they're doing new things that are far more interesting. In the U.S., if you want to build something and get it financed, you can't be bold. If you so something new, you'll have slim pickings. In Europe and Asia, there's more openness.

RT: You've talked a lot in your career about “placemaking.” What do you think of the trend today of retail developers building mixed-use projects?

Jerde: Shopping centers have always been discussed as single developments under one name. We're now in an age where you can have retail and hotels and apartment buildings together. It's becoming a finer and finer art. Even the projects we've been doing, like Kanyan, are putting uses together and knitting those uses together. Everything is flowing in that direction.

RT: It's been more than 20 years since Horton Plaza and the 1984 Olympics put your firm on the scene. How do the projects you're doing today connect back?

Jerde: There's a thread that keeps going. We're always learning. We're always shifting cultures, clients and countries. Now we can take what we've learned in Kenya and Cairo and maybe put it in Colorado.

Jon Jerde is founder of the Jerde Partnership, a 30-year-old architecture and design firm employing 120 people that has designed such settings as the 1984 Olympics site in and Horton Plaza in San Diego.

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