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Inspiring Architects: Charles Jencks

Who is Charles Jencks?

Charles Jencks, architecture historian, landscape architect and director of Maggie’s Cancer Care Centres has passed away at the age of 80.

Widely regarded as the pioneer of postmodernism in architecture, Charles was a bold man who pinpointed the expiry of modernism to an exact precise moment in history.

“Modern Architecture died in St. Louis, Missouri on July 15, 1972 at 3.32 p.m. (or thereabouts) when the infamous Pruitt-Igoe scheme, or rather several of its slab blocks, were given the final coup de grâce by dynamite.”

His writing on architecture helped define the field after Modernism. Other than that, put his ideas into practice both in memorable landscape architecture and in the forming of Maggie’s Centers.

Notable projects

Forty major areas, gardens, bridges, landforms, sculpture, terraces, fences and architectural works. Covering 30 acres, The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, designed by Charles Jencks, uses nature to celebrate nature, both intellectually and through the senses, including the sense of humor.

Jupiter Artland, Cells of Life

(in partnership with LAND and Margherita Brianza)

Eight landforms and a connecting causeway surround four lakes and a flat parterre for sculpture exhibits. The theme is the life of the cell, cells as the basic units of life, and the way one cell divides into two in stages called mitosis (presented in a red sandstone rill).

Curving concrete seats have cell models surrounded by Liesegang rocks. Their red iron concentric circles bear an uncanny relationship to the many organelles inside the units of life. From above, the layout presents their early division into membranes and nuclei, a landform celebration of the cell as the basis of life.

An urban park in northwest Milan with three major landforms, ponds, gardens, and sculpture.

Landscape and gardens always carry the imprint of time on their surface and in their growth and decay. For the Parco Portello in Milan the underlying concept is the Ritmo del Tempo, the various rhythms of time that pulsate on earth and in the universe, the basis for music. Thus here the three large mounds convey the three eras of cultural time in Milan – prehistory, history and the future – and the small garden portrays many rhythms from the heartbeat to the four seasons to the major events of the universe. All in all these rhythms of growing and walking are in tight syncopation.

Though Jencks’ passing was a great loss and it’s tough to take after his inspiring and soothing work, many architects learned from him and will continue to grow from his legacy. We can believe in the future.

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