This video contains two different lectures by Charles Jencks: the first on contemporary Japanese architecture, the second (at 51:00) on the language of modern architecture. It begins mid-lecture, and ends mid-lecture.
Charles Jencks discusses Japan’s urban landscape, and experiments in habitation proposed by the Metabolists. He describes an amalgamation of traditional ideals and contemporary ideas that conjure both the artificial and the real.
Jencks talks about the machine aesthetic in 1970s Japanese architecture as a syntax. He notes that the variety of architectural languages can rarely be found outside Japan's industrialized cities. He stresses the idea of the traditional and the contemporary colliding in harmony.
Jencks responds to comments from the audience, touching on issues of the current, chaotic language of architecture, differences in Western and Eastern styles as an expression of culture, lifestyle and philosophy.
At the 51:00 mark, Charles Jencks begins another lecture on the semiotics of architecture. He argues that modernist architecture can be viewed as a language that failed to communicate. He analyses Minoru Yamaski's Pruitt-Igoe development in St. Louis in terms of codes that reveal themselves to the user.
Jencks discusses multivalent elements in design as the distinguishing features of postmodernism. He contrasts the Chicago Civic Center and the campus of IIT with the work of Michael Graves and Ricardo Bofill. He analyses a corner detail from IIT in terms of signs and signification.
Jencks identifies a current shift away from unmeaning urban design, towards an idea of urban identification. He illustrates his point with a critique of modernist projects for social housing.
Jencks summarizes his views of architecture as a language by identifying four key terms: Metaphor, Syntax, Words, and Semantics. He illustrates what he means with Jørn Utzon's Sydney Opera House and Robert Venturi's duck versus decorated shed.
The video ends before the lecture.
Charles Jencks discusses how recent Italian movements are inspired by an eclectic collage of revival techniques. Jencks touches on the history of Domus and how it became an influential publication. He also describes contemporary production techniques and how they were used to inspire and push Italian architecture away from Modernist ideals.
Jencks uses examples from industrial and product design, as well as, the trendy commissions Italian designers get to explain how the design style began to surface. He also comments on current designers in Milan and how they were able to corner the market on fashionable furniture design. Through this he introduces how meanings and signifiers are drawn from Modernist ideals.
Jencks continues to describe developments in Italian architecture by citing several examples of items and projects that continue developing through the 1960s and 1970s. He uses the Milan Cemetery to show how a collection of styles in one place can form a type of architectural utopia. Jencks pulls from ideals in 1930s Fascism to describe how the style continued to unfold through a series of metaphors and signifiers as an illusion to the High Moderns. From that, Jencks introduces how ideas about irony and obscenity began to move to the forefront, especially projects presented by Superstudio, and rationalists like Aldo Rossi.
Jencks defends his lecture during a question and answer session. He answers questions regarding subjects of meaning and signifiers, architecture schools, and the historian's ability to categorize subject matter.
At the 1:16:19 mark, Jencks begins his lecture on contemporary Japanese architecture. He touches on traditions such as natural materials, life cycles, dualism, planes, and asymmetry and how these elements will be seen again in contemporary Japanese practice under different guises, creating what he coins multivalent elements of meaning. He summarizes these elements into what the Japanese refer to as the National Style.
Jencks describes how the Modern movement made its way into Japanese culture. Jencks discusses the Machine Age as a way of propelling architecture into a public realm, which eventually led to its degradation. Using examples of stadiums, civic centers, cathedrals, and expos, Jencks lays out the current direction of Japanese architecture.
Jencks gets into the bulk of his lecture on Japanese architectural development through the 1970s. He introduces the Metabolists and the views of how urban life should develop along the same means as cell growth and cell division. Again, Jencks supports his ideas through contemporary practitioners. This video ends in the middle of the lecture and can be continued with Jencks' lecture regarding Japanese architecture.
Michael Rotondi introduces Marc Treib, the first speaker in a special series devoted to contemporary architecture in Japan. Rotondi notes the affinity Los Angeles architects between the ages of 30 and 60 have for their colleagues in Japan. He also notes the interest in both traditional and contemporary Japanese design.
Marc Trieb introduces his theme as “Dichotomies of dwelling.” He will point out the continuities and differences between the homes and gardens of 17th century Edo Japan and the current experimental building in Japan. He acknowledges these categories often blur and overlap.
Treib discusses the flexible, fluid, additive spaces of 17th century Edo architecture, and points out similarities and differences in the work of Hiroshi Hara and Tadao Ando. Treib discusses the work of Hara and Ando as based on walls, that disrupt traditional Japanese infinite space with finite divisions. However their work retains traditional cool neutrality, as well as dramatic effects of hiding and revealing views.
Treib discusses the traditional Japanese modular grid as a three-dimensional frame promoting a sense of calm. Hiromi Fuji’s obsessively gridded houses seem the opposite of calm. But when inhabited, his grid retreats into a background.
Treib reviews the history of gardens and parks in Japan, which is very different from anything in the West. Seventeenth century Edo gardens were heightened backdrops for recreation. Later Zen gardens were vehicles for meditation. The subsequent development of the tea ceremony encouraged the development of gardens that functioned as transition paths from the tumult of the world into retreats of calm, characterized by asymmetry, equilibrium, use of unfinished materials, and use of water. For public parks, the only Japanese equivalent would be the grounds of Buddhist temples. Currently, the closest analogy would be the public areas surrounding urban transportation hubs.
Treib points out the continuity from the 17th century to now, in the tradition of the home as “machine for show” rather than “machine for living.” He discusses current architects who employ strong formal or metaphorical themes, focusing on Shin Takamatsu, Arata Isozaki, and Aida Takefumi. Their work extends and changes the traditional forms and functions.
Treib discusses the traditional Japanese aesthetic ideal of shibui–refined but slightly dissonant simplicity–as merely half of the whole story. Besides simplicity, there is an equally strong Japanese tradition of emotionally-charged opulent extravagance. Among contemporary architects, Trieb presents Kazuo Shinohara as an exponent of shibui, and Kiko Mozuna as the current exemplar of Japanese exuberance.