Charles Jencks’ Biography

Charles Jencks was a writer, critic and designer whose words and works helped
define Post-Modernism and frame the architectural discourse of the late twentieth century. Provocative, witty, refined, wide-ranging and controversial, his writing and his lectures spanned cultural history, the cosmos and science. The Cosmic House can be seen as the physical manifesto for his ideas. Jencks was also a renowned land artist designing landscapes across the world.

Key dates

1939Born in Baltimore USA
1969Writes Meaning in Architecture (with George Baird), in which he outlines his ideas about architecture, semiotics, signs and symbols.
1972Modern Movements in Architecture, a hugely popular and influential book which acknowledged Modernism as a more complex ecosystem of ideas, styles, approaches and movements from Expressionism to Metabolism and underlined Modernism’s darker side.
1972Adhocism (with Nathan Silver) a study of found objects, ready-mades and the adaptive tendencies of design and art.
1977The Language of Post-Modern Architecture, his seminal book on the evolving forms and ideas of Post-Modernism, embracing double- coding, irony and hybridity. It was widely translated and ran to seven editions and revisions until 2003.
1978Marries Maggie Keswick. Begins designing the Thematic House (later The Cosmic House) in London with Terry Farrell.
1979–1984Designs the Elemental House in Los Angeles.
1989–2007Designs and builds the Garden of Cosmic Speculation in Dumfriesshire, Scotland. This is followed by a number of other land art projects, including Northumberlandia Landform on a disused mining works, Crawick Landforms and Spirals of Time in Parco Portello in Milan. Forms Jencks Squared with his daughter Lily, to work on cosmic landform designs for CERN in Geneva and Eco-Line in Suncheon, South Korea.
1995Co-founds the Maggies Cancer Care Centres with Maggie. Death of Maggie.
1996First Maggies Centre completed in Edinburgh (designed by Richard Murphy). There will subsequently be dozens of centres by architects, many of whom were close personal friends of Charles and Maggie including Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Richard Rogers and Kisho Kurokawa.
1998Louisa Lane-Fox moves into The Cosmic House. They marry eight years later.
2005The Iconic Building: The Power of Enigma
2010The Architecture of Hope, a historical and holistic examination of health and architecture and the Maggies Centres.
2019Dies in London.