Two lushly photographed volumes explore Jon Jerde’s creative impulses past and present, with an eye toward the future.
"WHEN THEY MAKE A book of your work,” Jon Jerde said in a recent magazine interview, “you become real.” If that’s the case, Jerde must be swimming in reality. Two resplendent books devoted to him and his firm were released last year. Richly illustrated, with full-page, full-color photos of some of Jerde’s biggest projects, the books waste no chance to glorify the man and his work.
“Jon Jerde sketching is like Picasso scribbling on a napkin,” says longtime Los Angeles developer Steve Soboroff, in a quote featured on the back cover of Jon Jerde in Japan: Designing the Spaces Between (Balcony, $29.95 hardcover). This smartly designed book comes in at just over 100 pages, and focuses on one of Jerde’s great triumphs – Canal City Hakata, the largest private real estate development in the history of Japan. Opened in 1996, Canal City did for Fukuoka (Japan’s sixth-largest city) what Horton Plaza did for San Diego, what Fremont Street did for Las Vegas, and what Beursplein did for Rotterdam.
On a distressed 9 acres in the center of Fukuoka, the Jerde Partnership teamed with local developer Fukuoka Jisho to create a singular retail-entertainment center that has attracted nearly 50 million visitors since its opening.
Author Cathie Gandel traces the project from its conception to its triumphant unveiling. She pays special attention to the collaboration of the two firms – an entirely collective, team-oriented process Jerde calls “co-creativity,” which takes on new dimensions when, as in this case, East meets West. The book offers marvelous snapshots of colorful Canal City, including majestic views from the sky that show the complex nestled elegantly against the high-rises of sprawling Fukuoka. Those pictures make a compelling case for the praise heaped upon the project by esteemed Japanese architect Arata Isozaki (who designed, among other things, L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art): Isozaki said that Canal City and the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum in Spain (designed by another famous USC alumnus, Frank Gehry ’54) were the two most important buildings of the late 1990s.
The other book, You Are Here (Phaidon, $75 hardcover), is a sumptuous coffee-table retrospective on Jerde and the Partnership over the past two decades. Edited by Frances Anderton – with essays from, among others, legendary science fiction novelist Ray Bradbury – the book reads like Jerde talks. He is a man of big ideas, and Anderton elegantly pares down the often deeply philosophical parlance of the architect into a readable, thoughtful volume.
The essay by Bradbury, a long-time confidant of the architect, is excellent as expected. Jerde, the novelist playfully observes, “never met an abandoned downtown slum he didn’t love. Love to re-do, of course.” More surprising is the narrative mileage the other essayists get out of Jerde’s life story and the history of mall design. Together, the essays weave a portrait of the firm’s philosophies and place them in a cultural context. A favorable review in the LA Weekly says, “Given our status as ‘a consumerist republic,’ as [contributor Norman M.] Klein has it, You Are Here may be one of the most important books published this year, like it or not.” – S.B.

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