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Charles Alexander Jencks

BEYOND THE SENSATIONAL


I do believe architecture, and all art, should be content-driven. It should have something to say beyond the sensational. To see the world in a grain of sand, is to find relationships between the big and small, science and spirituality, the universe and the landscape. This cosmic setting provides the narrative for my content-driven work, the writing and design. I explore metaphors that underlie both growing nature and the laws of nature, parallels that root us personally in the cosmos as firmly as a plant, even while our mind escapes this home.

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GLOBAL LEADER FOR POSTMODERN ARCHITECTURE


Landscape Designer, Architect, Architecture Theorist & Critic

Charles Alexander Jencks is an architecture theorist and critic, landscape architect and designer. He is known for his books questioning modern architecture and defining its successors – late, new and post-modern architecture. He studied under the influential architectural historians Sigfried Giedion and Reyner Banham. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Jencks spent his childhood in New England. 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. Charles Jencks designs landscapes and sculpture and writes on cosmogenic art. 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 explained 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 Multiverse, 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.