Exhibition

Cosmic, Comic, Cosmetic
Themes and Designs for a House

24 September 2021–31 August 2022

To mark the public opening of The Cosmic House, this inaugural display brings together a selection of materials from Charles Jencks’ archive that outline the history of the building and some of the key influences and collaborations that helped to develop and shape the ideas behind its design.

The building was commissioned between 1978 and 1983 by Maggie and Charles Jencks, and built in close collaboration with architect Terry Farrell and others. It was carefully designed as a manifesto of Post-Modern architecture, a movement that Jencks, at that time working as a historian and writer, was responsible for defining, developing and disseminating.

Originally called The Thematic House, The Cosmic House is imbued with a complex symbolic programme that develops through parallel themes of cultural history and cosmology. Jencks’ take on Post-Modernism celebrated a polyphony of voices and diverse references in architecture, and the house allows for multiple readings and interpretations. It is a densely layered palimpsest of meaning, myth, symbolism, style, cosmology and culture, saturated with wit and tongue-in-cheek playfulness.

The spiritual home of the Post-Modern movement, this remarkable building exemplifies a specific moment of twentieth-century architecture. However, the foundational ideas and interests that form Jencks’ universe – from plural histories of architecture, to the cosmos, ecology and a new understanding of the interdependence between architecture and its broader context – continue to resonate and remain urgent in our Post-Modern world today.