Charles Jencks: New Japanese architecture / Architecture as language (May 28, 1976)



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.

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