Charles Jencks: Recent Italian & Japanese architecture (June 24, 1976)

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.