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From the Library: Charles Jencks

Architectural historian Charles Jencks meticulously documented images of the most outlandish and brash homes he found in LA, dissecting a uniquely Angeleno sort of ugly-beauty.


From the Library: Charles Jencks

When we’re in need of inspiration, our library is the first place we turn to; it exists in the physical and symbolic center of our office. In an effort to immortalize the countless resources on its shelves, we will feature a pertinent title from our library in each issue of the Post.

This week we begin with “Daydream Houses of Los Angeles” by Charles Jencks, first published in 1978. Jencks was a historian and cultural theorist as well as an architectural designer in his own right. He specialized in Postmodernism, which makes sense given his incredibly enlightened analysis of Los Angeles, the postmodern Blade Runner city.

“A natural, first response to the exaggerated houses of Los Angeles is one of despair. They display obvious — much too obvious — signs of snobbery, status-seeking and kitsch; they mix motifs pillaged from every known style, combine them in an ungrammatical way and are brazen enough to do this with explicitly shoddy material. This, it seems to me, is an inevitable, even necessary, part of one’s response to these houses, but it’s a revulsion tempered by other feelings, those of attraction and amusement, the delight of shock in seeing custom broken. In fact, because of the strong contradictory feelings they evoke (a result of their exaggerated qualities) it is particularly hard to give them an appropriate and modest appreciation”

As an LA based firm, we frequently think about this wild juxtaposition Jencks describes. We can’t really escape it. It’s become core to how we think about design: marrying opposed architectural styles and exploring the union of unusual materials together with traditional ones. But something else also resonates from what Jencks has uncovered. LA itself doesn’t really make sense, but it doesn’t make sense gloriously. You want to repel from its oddities, but you find yourself basking in them, wanting to know more about why these places exist and who lives within their walls. The oddities beg story telling.

The images we've selected here speak for themselves in terms of their visual content. They're fascinating as structures because they embody the sort of ugly-beauty you can't quite define. Jencks meticulously documented images of the most outlandish and brash of the homes he found throughout LA, and included witty anecdotes alongside (potentially incorrect, memory-recalled) addresses.