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California-shaped pool

California-shaped pool

May 1986: Architectural historian Charles Jencks cleans his distinctly shaped pool. The swimmer, according to Jencks, does not swim laps, but has to “swim on the diagonal.”

This photo by staff photographer Ken Lubas accompanied a story by Elizabeth Venant in the May 25, 1986, Los Angeles Times that began:

Among the most popular modernist quotes is Mies van der Rohe’s maxim, “Less is more,” to which post-modern architect Robert Venturi riposted, “Less is a bore.” To this, Charles Jencks, architectural popularizer and provocateur, who coined the word post-modern in design circles, has continued to add more and more.

“When you design a building, you’re designing it to live a good life–to personify and symbolize the good life,” he says one day at his Rustic Canyon home, where he is demonstrating the good-life principle–variously lounging by the swimming pool, eating poached salmon on the veranda and offering his visitor a postprandial Jacuzzi.

All of this is symbolic, of course. An architectural historian and ardent symbolist, Jencks believes that buildings should communicate to their users through visual metaphors and semantics. Dubbed “The Elemental House,” his Rustic Canyon habitat incorporates signs of earth, air, fire and water–roughly celebrating the outdoor California life. The family’s recently completed London home, “The Thematic House,” is designed around signs of the cosmos and seasons. Both houses are featured in Jencks’ latest book, “Towards a Symbolic Architecture: The Thematic House,” published in November (Rizzoli International: $50). …

Venant’s full story A Thoroughly Post-modern Thinker is online at the Los Angeles Times website.

scott.harrison@latimes.com

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