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Post-Modern Architecture

Charles Jencks Divides his time between lecturing, writing and building

Charles Jencks divides his time between lecturing, writing and building

Jencks’ book Modern Movement in Architecture was published in 1973. The book established the foundation of post-modern architecture. Jencks wrote that as architecture was fundamentally about human experience and the organization of such experience. Post-modern architecture had to be antideterministic and multivalence in order to organize the complex experience.

Unité d'Habitation in Berlin. Built for a international exhibition  in 1957.  Photo by Manfred Brückels.

Unité d’Habitation in Berlin. Built for a international exhibition in 1957. Photo by Manfred Brückels.

He used Le Corbsier’s Unité d’habitation as his primary example. There were links after links between different levels of experience. So the more one analyzed the building, the more one would find that building was not only Corb’s original intention, but also full of latent meaning. The building got rid of random heterogeneity and created connotativeness. Jencks thought that it was the way to deal with complex texture of reality. Post-modern architecture should be able to forge meaning with other potential meaning, employ explicit denotations that referred to other buildings. Here Jencks proposed a postmodern architectural language which was modulated by a notion of double coding.

Minoru Takeyama's Ni-Ban-Kahn

Minoru Takeyama’s Ni-Ban-Kahn

Odakyu's Drive-in Restaurant

Kurokawa’s Odakyu Drive-in Restaurant

Kikutake' Tokoen Hotel

Kikutake’ Tokoen Hotel







Jencks noticed that several Japanese architects’ works were departure of post-modern language. They had on occasion produced work in different styles, and single buildings that used various aesthetic systems in a semantic way. In Tokoen Hotel, Kikutake mixed traditional Japanese elements like Torri gate with modern forms. Kurokawa’s Odakyu Drive-in restaurant started from traditional bracket construction. Minoru Takeyama combined the use of popular, commercial codes with a geometric discipline in his project Ni-ban-kahn. These projects presented a mutual confrontation. But they benefited from the conflicts and created a different whole. Compared with the simple integration of different material, the hybrid was more inspiring. These kind of inclusive architectures were similar to tragedies. Tragedy articulated a greater wealth of experience for it confronted harsh realities. Inclusive architectures articulated a bleak view without evasion.

Louvain University

Students’ residence and social zone at Louvain University

To unify different parts, inclusive architectures were given a specific purpose (the difinition of ad hoc). In the students’ residence and social zone at Louvain University, many students participated in the design. Each of they proposed unique requirements. However, the architects Kroll intentionally brought an aesthetic intention into the process without dominating it. The result both kept multiple improvisation and its ad hoc attribute. The building showed a trend towards decentralization.

Casa Batlló by Antoni Gaudí

Casa Batlló by Antoni Gaudí

Casa Batllo Roof

Casa Batllo Roof

After viewing these projects, Jencks thought that using pluralistic language was the right direction. For multivalent architectures, they needed to combine meanings imaginatively. The only architect really used a pluralist language to produce multivalent work was Gaudi. In his Casa Batlló, he unified a 19th apartment and an Art Nouvean building by its facade. The facade was embedded with different metaphors of skeleton, marine and veggies. They unexpectedly modified each others’ meaning. In the sense of symbol and message, the roof of Casa Batlló was extraordinary for its profoundness. The dragon shape could be read as Spain. Gaudi as a member of nationalist movement tried to assert independence from Spain’s domination. So the dragon here was being slain be the cross wielded by Barcelona’s patron saint. For different people from different levels, they had their own understanding of the building.

At the end of essay, Jencks thought that ‘We must go back to a point where architects took responsibility for rhetoric. Architects designed the builidings to express the meanings a culture found significant, as well as elucidate certain ideas that haven’t reached expression’.

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