Egyptian Pyramids Thomas Tresham's Triangular Lodge, Northamptonshire, UK Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank, Hong Kong. Norman Foster Wu Hall, Princeton University, Venturi Rauch Scott-Brown

About this talk

Running time: 34 minutes

American Charles Jencks took degrees first in English in 1961 and then in architecture (BA and MA) at Harvard University, before coming to Britain where he acquired a doctorate under Reyner Banham (see Mythical Vernacular Monuments) at London University's Bartlett School of Architecture. There followed a stream of books - "Meaning In Architecture", "Architecture 2000", "Modern Movements", "Le Corbusier" and "Adhocism".

In the 1970s, discerning a style breaking with the Modern movement, he named it Post-Modernism and published a book and many articles describing its characteristics. He has since discerned, written and lectured worldwide about several other composite isms, and has become the most popular explainer of later 20th century styles.

Now he looks for symbolism in architecture, something that used to be quite common in the West when religion held sway, but lacking in our present-day commercial and agnostic society. People like Venturi (see Ornament, Scale & Ambiguity and Update On Their Theories), he says, who support a symbolic architecture, believe in "the decorated shed" where signs are added to a finished building. Whereas Jencks maintains that the structure, the construction, the history of the building, the desires of the inhabitant, should all be woven into a totality, using some kind of semantic language such as that provided by the five Orders of architecture.

In his talk, he describes how, in his own work, he has tried to order the building site and the different parts of the building into an overall story, so that one can walk through them and play the game of Hunt the Symbol.

Jencks went on to talk to us again in 2015 in Suncheon City, Korea: Holding The Eco-Line.

Please note that a transcript of this talk is available - please contact us for further details.

Charles Jencks

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