Charles Jencks

Wednesday night I went to a lecture to hear Charles Jencks speak. He’s a big architectural critic and was here to talk about “the building as icon” and an amazing garden he designed in Scotland.

The majority of the lecture was focused on comments on why iconic building like the Guggenheim in Bilbao are springing up all over the world. Sure there’s any economic bonus from these projects. It cost $100M to build the Guggenheim in Bilbao. The city brought in $100M the first year after it was built. $200 million the next year and the cash has been rolling in ever since. But this was a lesser factor from his perspective. According to him these buildings are now being funded because despite religious fundamentalist movements occurring all the world, it’s his belief that the world is becoming more and more agnostic. The iconic buildings of yesteryear where churches. No longer.

This brought up an intersting question during Q&A which was hosted by Peter Miller. He was asked why he thought religious fundamentalist movements were seemly gaining strength. Interestingly, he said fundamentalist movements were not attempts to take society back in time. Rather they were modernist movements. Surprised by that statement, I got home and looked up the definition of modernism in Wikipedia. He absolutely has a point:

The modernist movement emerged in the mid-19th century in France and was rooted in the idea that “traditional” forms of art, literature, social organization and daily life had become outdated, and that it was therefore essential to sweep them aside and reinvent culture. Modernism encouraged the idea of re-examination of every aspect of existence, from commerce to philosophy, with the goal of finding that which was “holding back” progress, and replacing it with new, and therefore better, ways of reaching the same end.

Jencks went on to say that, for example, muslim fundamentalism is a reaction to many poor of the world who are frustrated by being left behind. Very interesting perspective.

It’s been on my to-do list for some time to do some self study on modernism. I was mostly interesting in learning more about architects like Le Corbusier. But now I’d like to learn more about the movement it-self and contrast it to post modernism.


One Comment on “Charles Jencks”

  1. Nick says:

    Hi Andrej, that garden is in front of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art which is about a ten minute walk from my flat. The garden’s pretty fantastic and they don’t mind if you get out and walk around on it. Maybe I’ll go over there today 🙂
    Ironically, there are a couple iconic churches I pass on the way, including St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral (

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