The Garden of Cosmic Speculation |查尔斯·詹克斯和他的作品“宇宙思绪花园” | © Wikimedia Common
Thank you for sharing ideas with GARLIC. Please briefly introduce yourself to the GARLIC audience.
I’m Charles Jencks, sometimes a landscape architect. I call myself a land artist. I’ve written 30 or 40 books on architecture and postmodernism. I suppose my background is the founder of postmodernism, which bred all the arts. Started in literature, but it was negative. And then the architects were driven to postmodernism because they are the social arts architects have to face. Big problems of modernization, mass industrialization, mass culture We break down a society. All those problems which painters, musicians, artists don’t have to face. Post-modern architecture is where I come from. I was trained at Harvard here for eight years, four in literature, four in architecture, master’s degree. Got a Ph.D. in history. So, I, you know, move across the categories, which is the postmodern idea. You live once, but you have 10 personalities.
The Garden of Cosmic Speculation |查尔斯·詹克斯和他的作品“宇宙思绪花园” | © www.charlesjencks.com
“You have to have a historical view to see how people are formed in their paradigm, and how the paradigms change.”
You’ve written a lot of bestselling books, and have had very deep conversations with so many big names and masterpieces. It’s a very simple question we will ask for a lot of big names. Who influenced you the most? And which design piece transformed your design thinking or life?
when I was at Harvard, my personal devotion, was Le Corbusier, and he’s a painter, sculptor, city planner, architect, writer of 57 books. He was the total renaissance man of our times. And architecture was his main focus, and he built here, you know, first building in America was built in the Carpenter Center where I was a student, teacher, and part-time historian. So, I thought Le Corbusier was the center of the modern movement. And Harvard was a kind of European center, which transformed as the modern movement fell because of fascism, Nazis. A lot of them went to England and then moved on here. Gropius, Seid. But my two teachers here both worked in Le Corbusier’s office and were Polish people. Jersey Sulton, who was like the Modular Man, he was the model for it. And Joseph Solevski, who was Jewish. And… who escaped from the ghetto.in the second World War, 1944, he got out of the ghetto, one of the few Jews to live. Anyway, he worked for Le Corbusier and, Eid and Sulton, and so, this was the Vatican of modernism, you know, the Pope was called Pape and I was a little Corbusier myself and I started a magazine here. But still, I had many other origins as it was. I was equally devoted to literature. English literature. And philosophy. And so, you could say that I was skeptical of what had happened to modernism. In the 50s and 60s, as many people were, the modern movement started to fall apart from within. And my post-modern work comes from that. I found out for instance that Gropius wrote letters to Gerbils and Hitler. you know, he’s under-studied. All the… Corbusier worked for Vichy, wrote letters to Mussolini Meese, of course, worked for the Nazis for 4 years. I was the first one to write on all this, and I interviewed Philip Johnson, who went into, with Hitler, into Danzig you know, in the second World War. So, I found out that all the modernists, although they appeared pure, moral, and reasonable, were impure, immoral and unreasonable. So, you know, you have to have a historical view. to see how people are formed in their paradigm, and how the paradigms change. So, the post-modern paradigm came in, and you know, a lot of people are involved now. Jane Jacobs, in this school, by the way. As always, there were battles going on, stylistic battles, philosophical battles, and moral battles. That’s my background.
Carpenter Centre by Le Corbusier | 柯布西耶的作品“卡朋特中心” | © www.carpenter.center
Charles Jencks first chart of architects and movements | © www.harvarddesignmagazine.org
“Landscape allows me to give expression to the universe and cosmology in a way that maybe architecture would find harder to do.”
As you mentioned, you’re a renowned cultural theorist, landscaping designer, architectural historian and co-founder of the Maggie’s Cancer Care Centers. How do those different kinds of roles help you understand the profession differently?
My late wife who had terminal cancer, she and I, in Scotland, set up the idea of a Maggie’s Centre, which I called after her because it was patient-oriented. And cancer, of course, is a devastating disease which today, you can live with for a long time. And so, it raises all the issues of life and death. Suffering, pain, your family, your boss. If you have cancer, you have about 10 social problems. Right off the bat. Where do I get a wig? From having chemotherapy. How do I tell my children I’m gonna die? You know, all these are social problems. How do I make money? How do I get a loan? We started these things.
Because I’ve been a historian for a long time, and I was friends with Frank Gary, Richard Rogers and Noman Foster and Ben Koopaz, Zaha Hadid, the thousand good architects. They were my personal friends. So, I invited them all to do a Maggie’s Centre. They all said yes. They knew Maggie, they loved her, they performed well, they got competitive, became the Nobel Prize for Architecture, and, you know, it had a virtuous circle. And it opened my eyes to something I always knew about, and wrote about the point of the client. The client, historically, and in the west, maybe in China too, is a man, and the architect is a woman. And she’s got her sleeves… things rolled up like that. She’s a tough woman, 35 years old, she is I mean, an older woman. Not a young woman. And she can go out on the building site. She’s strong. And the client, the man and the woman fall in love. This is a Renaissance allegory. They fall in love, and if it’s good love match, after 9 months, a baby building is born.
And they have to give it tender love and care, and, you know, they bring it up as a child. So, architecture is a love match between a client who has the money, an architect who has the talent, and, you know, it’s an interesting one. Because we found these Maggie’s Centers you know that we do or love our architects, although they’re women and men. You know, the sex thing isn’t so to the fore. But that’s a social meaning in architecture. And it’s a collaborative meaning because what’s really important here is the teamwork and the social psychological healing that we do as a team. Not the architecture. The architecture comes second. Work first is what we do. And, you know, what we do, is about 20 therapies which are social, psychological, and human. Which the mass culture health center cannot do, who’s there to do with the primary work. The chemotherapy, radiotherapy. And they only have one or two minutes with the patient. We have hours with patients, and we help them navigate.
Maggie’s Cancer Care Center | 麦琪癌症护理中心 | © www.archdaily.com
So, you asked me. Maggie’s Centers has the role of the client, which is very important, the relationship with the client and the architect, and we relate well. And it has a social purpose of a very important mission that is death, life, the meaning of life. You know, all of these things which, you could say, are pushed away in the mass culture environment, which you never study in Harvard. So that’s just one thing, but my background, you know, I believe architecture is an art, and it’s a synthetic art. Pulls together, like opera, pulls together a lot of different…It’s a hybrid art, it’s an impure art.
And, so I’ve been talking about meaning in architecture a lot. For all my life. Symbolism and its influence. But I think it’s also, of course, an art in itself. In other words, it has its own laws, and I think an architectural language is internal to architecture. So, you know, my philosophy of architecture is a hybrid, multi-leveled discourse. And I like architects who are purely involved with the language, like Peter Eisenman. Like, focus just on the language. Palladio is his favorite. And Corbusier was a linguistic architect. He focused on the language of architecture. So, I defend our profession. But I also attack it. Because I see it from outside socially, all buildings are failures. It’s really interesting. But it’s true. Great buildings are great failures, often.
And as a historian, I’ve come to that conclusion slowly. It’s a sad one. Because you know, a great Beethoven’s symphony is not a failure completely? I mean it’s a great symphony. But then architecture is a social art, has to do impossible things. It’s got to heal society, it’s got to be a good machine, it’s got to function well, it’s got to look good. It’s gotta challenge people and look bad… Paranoia. Herzog and de Meuren talked about you know, and Ram Koolhaas. So, architecture’s a challenge in art and, you know, there’s never enough money, or there’s too much money. You know, it’s so entropic to build a good building you have to fight, I would say 20% of the time, passionately, and the other 80% of the time, you have to relax, and enjoy it. If you don’t… You don’t communicate that. You can’t fight all your life. So, that’s… I don’t know.
I saw the very funny article on Kurokawa, who was a good friend. I did with him Maggie’s Centre. Kisho Kurokawa, the Japanese architect is very famous, too famous. Anyway, it was on his plugin building, famous capsule building, and which is, the article was in the New York Times and it was written by a critic who said, you know, “My life is terrible. ” “My girlfriend has left me.” “Architecture always fails.” And it was about Kurokawa’s capsule building. and what a catastrophe it is today. I knew that building from the beginning, and I was a very close friend of Kurokawa’s. And the article struck me as opening this little box and saying: Well, of its time it was a great innovation, hardly idealistic, the first plugin building, you know, to work in its way to really be boxes plugged in, one room which is shrunk with everything in it. Marvelous! But society changes. Architecture deteriorates. Slumlords come in. You know, traffic gets worse, gets polluted.
It’s a tough, tough, profession we’re in. Now landscape, which is your profession is, in a way, has an easier time of relating to society, and relating to the enjoyable parts. It’s hard also to build landscape, because, again, there’s not enough money around, and landscape architects are cut down and turned into plumbers. So, you know, but on the other hand, if you design a landscape in a garden, it’s assumed you’re gonna do a pleasurable, beautiful, and challenging thing. You could do that in a landscape art, and it’s not over-industrialized as architecture tends to be. Over… So, anyway. I think landscape allows me to give expression to the universe and cosmology in a way that maybe architecture would find harder to do.
Nakagin Capsule Tower by Kisho Kurokawa | 黑川纪章的胶囊建筑 | © Noritaka Minami The Gorgeous Daily
Nakagin Capsule Tower by Kisho Kurokawa | 黑川纪章的胶囊建筑 | © Noritaka Minami The Gorgeous Daily
“Double design–looks at the science and the philosophy behind it.”
In many of your project, you celebrate nature and also incorporate the elements from modern science into design. You believe that contemporary science partially is a great moving source of creativity, because it tells the truth about the way of how universe is and shows the pattern of beauty. So, we are pretty curious about what is the design process in your project?
在你的很多设计作品中，你都很崇尚自然，也把现代科学中的元素与设计相结合。 因为当代科学透露了宇宙运行的真理，展示了美丽的图案，所以你认为它们是你创造力的一大源泉。 你昨天有提过设计历程，就像采访中你展示的那样，我们对你的设计过程感到很好奇。所以你是如何如何设计出那些建筑作品的？
I mentioned yesterday that in my work you have to do double design. Double design, for instance, looks at the science and the philosophy behind it, so you have to become immersed in that.
When I was in China, I was asked to design a little park area for the Beijing Olympic in 2008. I went to Beijing and consulted with the Chinese people, philosophers, and they asked me to design something very quickly, to put by the river in the Olympic park, and they asked me to do the black hole. As so, I said okay, you know I will do rotating black hole which is a more complex black hole, very big and it sucks everything in, in reality, it’s feeding, it’s feeding, it’s really veracious, it eats up everything.
But the Chinese I talked to said we don’t like the name black hole. And so I said, “why?”. And they said “you know blackness is a nasty word, a hole is black and for us, it has overwhelming wrong meaning. And I said “okay, I agree with you.” you know black hole, hole, black is awful. And in fact, a black hole in science were beginning to learn, is full of embracing gravity, and super gravity, actually holds galaxy together, you know really important, and no one can believe that this little tiny black hole can hold galaxy which is ten billion, you know stars or something together or help it. So, it’s really a new name, we need a new name.
So, we talked with the Chinese, and we said you know, what would be a good nominal, and they said Wu chi. So wu chi and it’s a popular name, and black hole very popular too in English, but wu chi(Five Elements), so we reviewed Wu chi, mother, energy, and chi, the force. And I redesigned it in my mind in that manner.
A very funny thing happened with the Chinese Olympic, of course, they had cleared the air, so the pollution, so they see the clouds and they watered it. And too much water came down, and they flooded the river, the river flooded by the black hole, and it turned into a mud hole for a while. Anyway, they cleaned it up.
But I, it was a very nice collaboration with the Chinese, I must say, really, I enjoyed it, they enjoyed it, we exchanged the philosophical design, work design, linguistic design, science design, on the one hand, it’s all one part, and then how do you build it? How does it relate to its form or its form of language? How does it relate to the landscape? Another design, so when I say double design, you have to do both.
WuChi by Charles Jencks| 查尔斯·詹克斯的作品“五气花园” | © www.charlesjencks.com