UCSD By Design: Charles Jencks

Charles Jencks is an architectural historian known for his books questioning modern architecture and defining its successors. He presents a lecture titled “Realizing the Vision: From Cosmic to Contextual Counterpoint in Campus Design.” Jencks was the first scholar to theorize postmodernism from the perspective of architecture and is the author of “The New Paradigm in Architecture: The Language of Postmodernism.” Series: “UCSD By Design”


University of California Television (UCTV)

Charles Alexander Jencks (born 21 June 1939) is an American architectural theorist, landscape architect and designer. His books on the history and criticism of modernism and postmodernism are widely read in architectural circles. He studied under the influential architectural historians Sigfried Giedion and Reyner Banham. Jencks now lives in Scotland where he designs landscape sculpture.

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Jencks spent his childhood in New England. His father was the pianist and composer Gardner Jencks. Jencks received his Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature at Harvard University in 1961 and a Master of Arts degree in architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 1965. In the mid-sixties, Jencks moved to the United Kingdom, where he now has houses in Scotland and London. He took his studies even further in 1970, receiving his PhD in Architectural History from University College, London. He has lived in the UK ever since.

The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, designed in part by Jencks and begun in 1988, was dedicated to Jencks’ late wife Maggie Keswick Jencks. Jencks, his wife, scientists, and their friends designed the garden based on natural and scientific processes. Jencks’ goal was to celebrate nature, but he also incorporated elements from the modern sciences into the design. The garden contains species of plants that are pleasurable to the eye, as well as edible. Preserving paths and the traditional beauty of the garden is still his concern, but Jencks enhances the cosmic landscape using new tools and artificial materials. Just as Japanese Zen gardens, Persian paradise gardens, and the English and French Renaissance gardens were analogies for the universe, the design represents the cosmic and cultural evolution of the contemporary world. The garden is a microcosm – as one walks through the gardens they experience the universe in miniature. According to Jencks, gardens are also autobiographical because they reveal the happiest moments, the tragedies, and the truths of the owner and family.

As the garden developed starting in 1988, so too did such sciences as cosmology, and this allowed a dynamic interaction between the unfolding universe, an unfolding science, and a questioning design. Jencks believes that contemporary science is potentially a great moving force for creativity, because it tells us the truth about the way the universe is and shows us the patterns of beauty. As spelled out in his recent book, The Universe in the Landscape, 2011, his work is content-driven. His many landforms are based on the idea that landforming is a radical hybrid activity combining gardens, landscape, urbanism, architecture, sculpture, and epigraphy. Thus the landforms often include enigmatic writing and complex symbolism. Landforms provoke the visitor to interpret landscape on the largest and smallest scale.

Jencks has become a leading figure in British landscape architecture. His landscape work is inspired by fractals, genetics, chaos theory, waves and solitons. In Edinburgh, Scotland, he designed the landform at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in collaboration with Terry Farrell and Duncan Whatmore of Terry Farrell and Partners. Other works include the Garden of Cosmic Speculation, at Portrack House near Dumfries; Designs for Black Hole Landscape, IUCAA, Pune, India, 2002; Portello Park, Milan 2002-7 (Time Garden 2004-7); Two Cells – Inverness Maggie’s Centre, 2003-5; Northumberlandia Landform, 2004; Cells of Life, Jupiter Artland, Bonnington House 2003-2010; Crawick Landforms, 2006- ; Memories of the Future landform and reclamation project, Altdobern, Germany; Wu Chi, Black Hole Oval Terrace, Beijing Olympic Park, 2008; and The Scottish World, St. Ninians, Kelty, 2003, 2010+.

He is also a furniture designer and sculptor, completing DNA sculptures at Kew Gardens in 2003 and Cambridge University in 2005.

Tags:

Categories: Landscape, Lectures

Subscribe

Subscribe to our RSS feed and social profiles to receive updates.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: