Horton Plaza / Jon Jerde

Horton Plaza by Jon Jerde opened in 1985. It was a big deal. Downtown San Diego was dead and this postmodern mall was an attempt to revitalize the heart of the city. It's considered a postmodern architectural icon, as well as redevelopment success story.

Jerde referred to the style as "Festival Marketplace".  His design for the shopping center was based on Ray Bradbury's essay "The Aesthetics of Lostness". Anyone who has been there, knows what this is all about. There are curved walkways, mismatched levels, one-way ramps, sudden drop-offs, colonnades and cul-de-sacs, all around a central courtyard. 

Six buildings that were were on the National Register of Historic Places were demolished to make way for the 6 block shopping center.  In true San Diego style, many of the demolished buildings were recreated as stucco renditions. The Knights of Pythias Castle was one of the victims.

Image: San Diego History Center (via SD Reader)

The design of the windows was mimicked on Macy's, which is the only anchor tenant left in the mall.

 The flower pot is where Jessop's Clock stood. The clock was built in 1907 and was in front of the Jessop and Sons jewelry store in Downtown. It's now in storage.

Macy's was originally The Broadway and had a much better colorway. 

There's the clock. The colorful banners are long gone too. Supergraphics were designed by Deborah Sussman and Paul Prejzadid.

Image: Jerde

Louis Vuitton once occupied the space below Sushi.

Image: Jerde

Sushi is gone. Actually all the eateries are gone. 

Not even Cinnabon could survive.

The retail apocalypse is now upon us. Like many regional shopping centers around the country, the mall is pretty much vacant. The internet in combination with poor management by Westfield, the former owner, are mostly to blame. 

Although it's sad to see it as a shell of its former self, the lack of people makes for good picture taking. I suggest visiting before it gets altered beyond recognition. 

Horton from above, as it looks today. Although Nordstrom left in 2016. 

Jerde described it as "...a new zone of the city, an extension of the city’s streets and a pilot light for the eventual complete rebirth of downtown.’’ Although the building's design was meant to function as a city, it was actually cut off from the rest of the Gaslamp. This may have made sense in the 1980's when the area was rough and full or seedy businesses. Since then, the surrounding area has flourished and the mall has been suffering a slow death.

Image: Google

Stockdale Capital purchased the mall late in 2018, with the intent of turning it into an "innovation center" or "tech hub." This is the latest rendering. It looks like the idea is to keep the triangular centerpiece and whitewash the rest. Hopefully that isn't the case. The reuse is definitely needed but keeping the quirky architecture could be an asset. Does the world really need another mirrored glass and white stucco office complex?

Efforts are underway by groups, such as Docomomo, to preserve Horton Plaza's architecture.

Their letter to San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer states "Horton Plaza is one of the most significant examples of the Post-Modern style offering eclectic forms, color and excitement in a uniquely public shopping space. Inspired by medieval Italian hill towns, Horton Plaza’s high sense of visual and spatial drama transformed the shopping experience in the mid-1980s and catapulted Jon Jerde as the country’s leading mall and urban space designer."

Read more at Docomomo