Jencks, Charles 1939–

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Jencks, Charles 1939–

(Charles Alexander Jencks)

PERSONAL: Born June 21, 1939, in Baltimore, MD; son of Gardner Platt (a composer) and Ruth (Pearl) Jencks; married Pamela Balding, June 20, 1961 (marriage ended, July, 1973); married Margaret ("Maggie") Keswick, 1978 (deceased), partner with Louisa Lane Fox; children: (first marriage) Ivor Cosmo, Justin Alexander; (second marriage) John Keswick, Lily-Clare. Education: Harvard University, B.A., 1961, M.A., 1965; University of London, Ph.D., 1970.

ADDRESSES: Office—c/o Architectural Association, 36 Bedford Sq., London W.C.1, England. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Rizzoli/Universe International Publications, 30 Park Avenue S., 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10010; fax: 212-387-3535.

CAREER: Architect, designer, writer, and educator. Architectural Association, London, England, senior lecturer in architectural history, 1968–88; University of CaliforniaLos Angeles, adjunct professor of architecture, then visiting professor, 1974–92; writer. Visiting lecturer at numerous universities worldwide, including Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, and Yale University. Architect and builder of Gargagia Rotunda, Truro, 1976–77; The Thematic House, London, with Terry Farrell, 1979–84, and The Elemental House, Santa Monica, with Buzz Yudell, 1983. Also served on the Committee for the Selection of Architects, Biennale, Venice, 1980.

Has lectured at more than forty universities throughout the world; also served on numerous exhibition juries; has also appeared on numerous television and radio programs and in documentary films, including Rebuilding the Palace.

MEMBER: Architectural Association (London, England), Royal Society of Arts (London, England), Broucho, Athenaeum, Chelsea Arts.

AWARDS, HONORS: Fulbright scholarship to England, 1965–67; Melbourne Oration, Australia, 1974; Bosom Lectures, Royal Society of Arts, London, 1980; Gold Medal recipient from RIBA, 1983; NARA Gold Medal for Architecture, 1992; Country Life Gardener of the Year, 1998; Bulbenkian Prize for Museum of the Year, with the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, 2004, for landscaping project titled "Landform"; honorary degree from the University of Glasgow, 2005.


(Editor, with George Baird) Meaning in Architecture, Braziller (New York, NY), 1967.

Architecture 2000: Predictions and Methods, Praeger (New York, NY), 1971.

(With Nathan Silver) Adhocism, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1973.

Modern Movements in Architecture, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1973.

Le Corbusier and the Tragic View of Architecture, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1973.

The Language of Post-Modern Architecture, Rizzoli (New York, NY), 1977, revised edition published as The New Paradigm in Architecture: The Language of Post-Modern Architecture, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2002.

The Daydream Houses of Los Angeles, Rizzoli (New York, NY), 1978.

Bizarre Architecture, Rizzoli (New York, NY), 1979.

(Editor, with Richard Bunt and Geoffrey Broadbent) Signs, Symbols and Architecture, Wiley (New York, NY), 1980.

Skyscrapers—Sky Cities, Rizzoli (New York, NY), 1980.

Late-Modern Architecture: Selected Essays, Rizzoli (New York, NY), 1980.

Post-Modern Classicism, Rizzoli (New York, NY), 1980.

Free-Style Classicism, Rizzoli (New York, NY), 1982.

Architecture Today, Abrams (New York, NY), 1982, revised edition, 1988.

Abstract Representation, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1983.

Kings of Infinite Space: Frank Lloyd Wright and Michael Graves, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1983.

Towards a Symbolic Architecture: The Thematic House, Rizzoli (New York, NY), 1985.

Charles Platt: The Artist as Architect, MIT Press (Boston, MA), 1985.

(With Terry Farrell) Designing a House: An Architectural Design Profile, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1986.

Post-Modernism & Discontinuity, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1987.

Post-Modernism: The New Classicism in Art and Architecture, Rizzoli (New York, NY), 1987.

The Prince, the Architects and New Wave Monarchy, Rizzoli (New York, NY), 1988.

(Editor) The Architecture of Democracy, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1988.

The New Moderns: From Late to Neo-Modernism, Rizzoli (New York, NY), 1990.

What Is Post-Modernism?, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1990.

Post-Modern Triumphs in London, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1991.

(Editor) A Post-Modern Reader: Elements of a New Cultural Synthesis, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1992.

Heteropolis: Los Angeles, the Riots and the Strange Beauty of Hetero-Architecture, Academy Editions: Ernst & Sohn (London, England), 1993.

(Editor) Frank O. Gehry: Individual Imagination and Cultural Conservatism, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1995.

The Architecture of the Jumping Universe: A Polemic: How Complexity Science Is Changing Architecture and Culture, Academy Editions/National Book Network (New York, NY), 1995.

(Editor, with Karl Kropf) Theories and Manifestos of Contemporary Architecture, Wiley (New York, NY), 1997.

Ecstatic Architecture: The Surprising Link: From a Debate of the Academy International Forum at the Royal Academy, Wiley (New York, NY), 1999.

(Editor, with Maggie Toy) Millennium Architecture, Wiley (New York, NY), 1999.

Architecture 2000 and Beyond (critique of earlier book, see above), Wiley-Academy (New York, NY), 2000.

Le Corbusier and the Continual Revolution in Architecture, Monacelli Press (New York, NY), 2000.

The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, Frances Lincoln (London, England), 2003.

The Iconic Building, Rizzoli (New York, NY), 2005.

Author of television scripts for programs on Le Corbusier and on "adhocism," for British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); contributor to Hopkins2: The Work of Michael Hopkins and Partner, by Colin Davies, Phaidon (London, England), 2001, and to The Chinese Garden: History, Art, and Architecture, by Maggie Keswick, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2003.

Contributor to numerous magazines and journals, including Architectural Design, Architectural Forum, Domus, Encounter, Times Literary Supplement, Observer, and the Independent.

SIDELIGHTS: Charles Jencks, an architectural historian and theoretician, is often recognized for his books questioning Modern architecture and describing and defending Post-Modern architecture. Jencks is widely considered one of the shapers of the Post-Modern movement and is certainly among the writers and essayists who helped to define the style. "If there has been any single catalyst for the new, it has been the work of Charles Jencks, by far the most articulate and productive apostle of postmodernism from its beginnings," wrote Ada Louise Huxtable in the New York Review of Books. "To an acute sense of what is new, he adds that most important critical faculty, a very good eye." Through books ranging from scholarly and polemical to popular and picture-strewn, Jencks has helped to publicize late Modern and Post-Modern buildings and their builders.

Jencks began publishing in the early 1970s, when architects of his generation began to question the Modern movement with its "less is more" emphasis on utility and austerity. Jencks and others conceived the Post-Modernist movement as a "multivalent" style that could use coded design elements to convey double meanings, project symbolism, and even reflect irony and humor. Jencks's prolific writings on the subject have influenced at least two generations of architects, including those who will be working well past the year 2000. Huxtable wrote: "At a time when architectural commentary is at its most pretentious, turgid, and murky, Jencks is an intelligent, stylish, and provocative polemicist. An able manipulator of facts and opinions, a master of architectural hat tricks with styles and substyles, an expert maker of elaborate charts and graphs of cosmic, disembodied logic, he entertains at the same time that he outrages—something he does with a calculated consistency. You don't have to be a postmodernist to enjoy Jencks's books."

Throughout his oeuvre, Jencks has expressed dissatisfaction with the Modern architectural genre, which tends to eliminate the symbolic value of buildings in favor of the purely functional. In a New York Times review of The Language of Post-Modern Architecture, Paul Goldberger wrote: "Architecture is language and communication, [Jencks] argues, not abstract form-making or pure functionalism. We need towers on churches because churches are supposed to play a symbolic role in our lives—they are not supposed to look like boiler houses, and Mies van der Rohe's notion of a universal architectural vocabulary is, to Mr. Jencks, naively simplistic at best, destructively inhuman at worst." Jencks believes that a building should reflect both its environment and symbolic value and terms his preferred style "radical eclecticism." Goldberger commented: "'radical eclecticism' is not basically different from the style other 'post-modernists' have proclaimed—an architecture that eschews theories and formal order in favor of something looser, something more reflective of both historical values and human needs."

Post-Modernism: The New Classicism in Art and Architecture encompasses "art and culture as well as architecture," observed reviewer Sam Hall Kaplan in the Los Angeles Times Book Review. In a New York Review of Books review of Post-Modernism: The New Classicism in Art and Architecture, critic Hugh Honour cast Jencks as "an internationally aware Post-Modernist, the inventor of the term so far as architecture is concerned and its first theorist," adding: "For him Post-Modern classicism is not simply a negation of functional minimalism and the machine aesthetic, still less the result of a swing in the pendulum of taste, but "a wider social protest against modernisation, against the destruction of local culture by the combined forces of rationalisation, bureaucracy, large-scale development and, it is true, the Modern International Style." As for Jencks's analysis of art, Honour claimed: "It is the product of overlapping sets of preoccupations, including 'a commitment to anamnesis (i.e., the memory of past forms),' which Jencks detects in the work of many contemporary painters and sculptors as well as architects."

Often finding himself in the position of an historian who was covering events even as they unfolded, Jencks became an "apologist for a generation of symbiotic stylists," noted Kaplan. Even those critics who have reservations about post-modern style gener-ally agree that Jencks has served the movement well as its "most voluble spokesman and chief public relations counsel," as noted by Times Literary Supplement reviewer Martin Filler. New York Times Book Review contributor Goldberger wrote that Jencks is "surely our time's most energetic compiler and classifier of architectural events," adding that the author's body of work is "as good a catalogue as exists of the kinds of architecture that have provoked serious thought over the last decade."

In his book Heteropolis: Los Angeles, the Riots and the Strange Beauty of Hetero-Architecture, Jencks focuses in on the post-modern architecture of Los Angeles, describing the style in what he calls "heteroarchitecture," which he states is an expression of cultural pluralism. The author brings physics into the discussion of postmodern architecture and landscaping in his book The Architecture of the Jumping Universe: A Polemic: How Complexity Science Is Changing Architecture and Culture. Writing in New Statesman & Society, Conrad Jameson explained the author's attempt to engage physics in the discussion of post-modern architecture, noting that the author "realizes that a larger postmodern movement is in dreadful straits for relying on a nihilistic form of relativism, based on the opposite conclusions about disorder: that behind disorder is only more disorder, that even our human attempts to build constructs of meaning are doomed."

In Le Corbusier and the Continual Revolution in Architecture, Jencks gives the reader a critical biography of noted architect and artist Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, who used the pseudonym Le Corbusier. Writing in the Library Journal, Paul Glassman noted that the author looks at "Le Corbusier's growth into the role of master architect and innovator through detailed, original and illuminating analyses." In a review in Architecture, Brian Brace Taylor called the author "a gifted storyteller who makes his subject come alive." He also wrote, "Jencks is true to his signature method of interpretation, which proceeds by analogy and metaphor, with limitless imagination." George Maurios, writing in Architectural Review, commented, "Right from the first lines of the introduction we understand the originality of Jencks' book: showing, through the writing of L.C., the importance and the extent of his work."

In a revision of his 1977 book The Language of Post-Modern Architecture, published as The New Paradigm in Architecture: The Language of Post-Modern Architecture, the author includes two new chapters to a book that has become a classic through its six previous editions and is used in many architecture classrooms. "He is such a readable writer that almost any library collection would benefit from this book," wrote Peter McKee Kaufman in the Library Journal. Writing in Building Design, Kenneth Powell noted that the book presents the author's "recent thinking" about postmodernism and went on to call the book "hugely impressive," later adding: "Combining scholarship with speculation and polemic, it is indispensable reading."

Jencks discusses the garden he and his late wife Maggie Keswick developed over the years at their home in Scotland in his book The Garden of Cosmic Speculation. Writing in the Library Journal, Edward J. Valauskas noted that the author "explains the gestation of this locale and its meaning on an altogether different plane from any other garden on the planet." Architectural Review contributor Michael Spens wrote, "This book provides a worthy documentation of a determined, thoroughly researched venture into the redefinition of meaning for landscape." Spectator contributor Kim Wilkie commented: "The garden is a unique exploration of one man's mission to understand the universe." Wilkie went on to write that the book "is beautifully illustrated, and the descriptions of the way in which the garden evolved are absorbing."

The Iconic Building presents his theories about the emergence of a new architecture type, namely the building as an icon. For example, he discusses the evolving plans for the memorial building to be built at the site of the World Trade Center following its bombing by terrorists. "Neither a pious jeremiad nor a jargon-ridden manifesto, Jencks's volume is more interested in outsize buildings and personalities than in prescriptions and complaints," wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor. The reviewer went on to note that the book is "brimming with critical energy," calling the book "absolutely the chronicle of our age." Building Design contributor Kester Rattenbury went on to mark the book as "a classic" adding, "Love or hate iconic buildings, the book is a must-read, stuffed full of good meaty material."



Architectural Review, September, 1995, Peter Davey, "The Scientific American," discusses author's work, p. 84; July, 2000, "Jencks's Theory of Evolution an Overview of Twentieth-Century Architecture;" May 1, 2001, George Maurios, review of Le Corbusier and the Continual Revolution in Architecture, p. 99; April, 2004, Michael Spens, review of The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, p. 97.

Architecture, May, 2001, Brian Brace Taylor, review of Le Corbusier and the Continual Revolution in Architecture, p. 93.

Building Design, September 6, 2002, Kenneth Powell, review of The New Paradigm in Architecture: The Language of Post-Modern Architecture, p. 17; April 29, 2005, Kester Rattenbury, "Metaphor Writ Large," interview with author about the book The Iconic Building, p. 18; July 8, 2005, announcement of honorary degree for author, p. 2.

Guardian (London, England), December 22, 2001, Jonathan Glancey, "Saturday Review: Arts 2002: Architecture: High Anxiety," briefly mentions author, p. 5.

Interior Design, January, 1994, Stanley Abercrombie, review of Heteropolis: Los Angeles, The Riots and the Strange Beauty of Hetero-Architecture, p. 51.

Library Journal, February 1, 2001, Paul Glassman, review of Le Corbusier and the Continual Revolution in Architecture, p. 85; October 1, 2002, Peter McKee Kaufman, review of The New Paradigm in Architecture: The Language of Post-Modern Architecture, p. 90; January, 2004, Edward J. Valauskas, review of The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, p. 103.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, July 19, 1987, Sam Hall Kaplan, Post-Modernism: The New Classicism in Art and Architecture, p. 14.

New Statesman & Society, May 27, 1994, Conrad Jameson, review of Heteropolis, p. 45; June 2, 1995, Conrad Jameson, review of The Architecture of the Jumping Universe: A Polemic: How Complexity Science Is Changing Architecture and Culture, p. 41.

New York Review of Books, December 22, 1983, Ada Louise Huxtable, "Architecture Today," pp. 55-61; September 29, 1988, Hugh Honour, review of Post-Modernism: The New Classicism in Art and Architecture, pp. 27-33.

New York Times, November 5, 1977, Paul Goldberger, review of The Language of Post-Modern Architecture, p. 19.

New York Times Book Review, December 12, 1982, Paul Goldberger, review of Architecture Today, p. 22; December 6, 1987, Paul Goldberger, review of Post-Modernism: The New Classicism in Art and Architecture, p. 22.

Publishers Weekly, September 19, 2005, review of The Iconic Building, p. 58.

Spectator, December 6, 2003, Kim Wilkie, review of The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, p. 56.

Times Literary Supplement, March 24-30, 1989, Martin Filler, "What Is Post-Modernism," p. 295; December 4, 1992, p. 13.


Charles Jencks Home Page, (November 6, 2005).

24 Hour Museum, (October 6, 2005), announcement of Gulbenkian Prize.