You have to admire Charles Jencks for promoting Post-Modernism in architecture for 25 years. He makes some intriguing commentaries in this book, but his arguments still ring hollow, largely due to his continued denunciation of Modernism.
He recycles his chapter on The Death of Modern Architecture, filled with the same glaring inaccuracies from the first edition. He admonishes the Modernists for inverting the traditional syntax of architecture, turning boiler rooms into chapels, and chapels into boiler rooms, which he felt was the case with Mies at the IIT campus. Yet, he hails the more recent examples such as the National Museum of Australia (2001) by Ashton, Raggatt and McDougall (ARM) for its crytpic ironic messages that took a text written by Howard Raggatt to help decipher.
But, it seems that Jencks revels in such complexities and contradictions, alluding to the seminal work by Robert Venturi which got the PoMo ball rolling in 1966. Jencks illustrates the turbulent late 60's when an attempt was made to recapture the past, heeding the call by Jane Jacobs in The Death and Life of American Cities (1961) for a new urbanism based on contextualism. The early PoMo figures seemed to revel in the collision of forms as seen in Venturi's work, or simply inverting Modernist icons like the Schroder House, as Michael Graves did in the Benacerraf House addition (1969). A movement really didn't take hold until the 1970's and seemed to reach its apotheosis in the AT&T Building by Philip Johnson (1978-81). However, Jencks was not content to let it go at that. In the succeeding chapters, he attempts to illustrate how Post-Modernism redirected architecture, infused it with new meaning that went beyond the corporate forms of SOM and the huge Disney resort complexes of Michael Graves and Robert Stern, which dominated the 80's.
Jencks includes a fascinating range of work, but I am left scratching my head as to whether all this is really Post-Modern. It seems a bit of a stretch to include Aldo Rossi, whose work is firmly based on Italian Rationalist traditions and the urban planning of Camillo Sitte, a 19th-century Viennese urban planner. The Ad-Hoc forms of Ralph Erskine and Frank Gehry seem to recall theories first put forward in the 1950's, notably those of Aldo Van Eyck, than they do a new paradigm in architecture. The fantastic images of Rem Koolhaas seem to recall Futurist visions from before WWI, with later references to Le Corbusier. But, such references seem to allude Jencks, who seems intent on rewriting architectural history from a Post-Modern perspective.
As he states in his introduction, this is a polemic and it should be read as such. It offers some engaging essays on current trends in architecture but lacks the depth of a thorough survey like that of William J.R. Curtis in his book Modern Architecture since 1900. I guess the ultimate irony is that Le Corbusier is back in vogue, with playful new interpretations of the Domino House by Rem Koolhaas, and architectural one-liners like "The Not Villa Savoye" by ARM, which is painted black apparently representing the antipode of Australia.