Reyner Banham

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Reyner Banham
FRIBA
Born Peter Reyner Banham
(1922-03-02)March 2, 1922
Norwich, England
Died March 19, 1988(1988-03-19) (aged 66)
London, England
Nationality British
Alma mater Courtauld Institute of Art
Occupation Architectural historian
Known for New Brutalism
Notable work(s) Theory and Design in the First Machine Age (1960)
The New Brutalism (1966)
Los Angeles: the Architecture of Four Ecologies (1971)

Peter Reyner Banham, FRIBA (2 March 1922 – 19 March 1988) was an English architectural critic and prolific writer best known for his theoretical treatise Theory and Design in the First Machine Age (1960) and for his 1971 book Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies.[1] In the latter he categorized the Los Angeles experience into four ecological models (Surfurbia, Foothills, The Plains of Id, and Autopia) and explored the distinct architectural cultures of each ecology. Banham worked in London, but lived primarily in the United States from the late 1960s until the end of his life.

Life[edit]

The cover of a paperback edition of Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies (1971), a popular study of Los Angeles

Banham was born in Norwich, England to Percy Banham, a gas engineer, and Violet Frances Maud Reyner.[2] He was educated at Norwich School and gained an engineering scholarship with the Bristol Aeroplane Company, where he spent much of the Second World War.[2] In Norwich he gave art lectures, wrote reviews for the local paper and was involved with the Maddermarket Theatre.[2] In 1949 Banham entered the Courtauld Institute of Art in London where he studied under Anthony Blunt, Sigfried Giedion and Nikolaus Pevsner.[3] Pevsner, who was his doctoral supervisor, invited Banham to study the history of modern architecture, following his own work Pioneers of the Modern Movement (1936). In Theory and Design in the First Machine Age, Banham cut across Pevsner's main theories, linking modernism to built structures in which the 'functionalism' was actually subject to formal strictures. Later, he wrote a Guide to Modern Architecture (1962, later titled Age of the Masters, a Personal View of Modern Architecture).

In 1952 Banham began working for the Architectural Review.[2] Banham also had connections with the Independent Group, the 1956 This Is Tomorrow art exhibition – considered by many to the birth of pop art – and the thinking of the Smithsons and of James Stirling, on the 'New Brutalism', which he documented in his 1966 book The New Brutalism: Ethic or Aesthetic?.[clarification needed] He predicted a "second age" of the machine and mass consumption. The Architecture of Well-Tempered Environment (1969) follows Giedion's Mechanization Takes Command (1948), putting the development of technologies such as electricity and air conditioning ahead of the classic account of structures. In the 1960s, Cedric Price, Peter Cook, and the Archigram group also found this to be an absorbing arena of thought.

Green thinking (Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies) and then the oil shock of 1973 affected him. The 'postmodern' was for him uneasy, and he evolved into the conscience of postwar British architecture. He broke with utopian and technical formalism. Scenes in America Deserta (1982) talks of open spaces and his anticipation of a 'modern' future. In A Concrete Atlantis: U.S. Industrial Building and European Modern Architecture, 1900-1925 (1986) Banham demonstrates the influence of American grain elevators and "Daylight" factories on the Bauhaus and other modernist projects in Europe.

As a professor, Banham taught at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London in the University of London, the State University of New York (SUNY) Buffalo, and through the 1980s at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He had been appointed the Sheldon H. Solow Professor of the History of Architecture at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University shortly before his death, but he never taught at the institution. He was also featured in the short documentary Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles; in his book on Los Angeles, Banham said that he learned to drive so he could read the city in the original.

In 2003, Nigel Whiteley published a critical biography of Banham, Reyner Banham: Historian of the Immediate Future,[4] in which he gives an in-depth overview of Banham's work and ideas.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Theory and Design in the First Machine Age. Praeger. 1960.  Theory and Design in the First Machine Age: Second Edition. Praeger. 1967. 
  • Guide to Modern Architecture. Architectural Press. 1962. ISBN 978-0-85139-261-5. 
  • The New Brutalism. Architectural Press. 1966. 
  • Architecture of the Well-tempered Environment. Architectural Press. 1969. ISBN 978-0-85139-073-4.  Architecture of the Well-tempered Environment: Second, Revised Edition. Architectural Press. 1984. ISBN 978-0-85139-749-8. 
  • Los Angeles The Architecture Of Four Ecologies. Harper and Row. 1971. ISBN 978-0-7139-0209-9. 
  • Megastructure. Thames and Hudson Ltd. 1976. 
  • Scenes in America Deserta. Thames and Hudson. 1982. ISBN 978-0-500-01292-5. 
  • A Concrete Atlantis: US Industrial Building and European Modern Architecture. MIT Press. 1989. ISBN 978-0-262-52124-6. 

References[edit]

  1. ^ Goldberger, Paul (22 March 1988). "Reyner Banham, Architectural Critic, Dies at 66". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ a b c d Sutherland Lyall (2004; online edn, May 2008). "Banham, (Peter) Reyner (1922–1988)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 20 January 2014. 
  3. ^ Dictionary of Art Historians. "Banham, [Peter] Reyner, "Peter"". Retrieved 30 October 2013. 
  4. ^ Whiteley, Nigel (2003). Reyner Banham: Historian of the Immediate Future. MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-73165-2. 

External links[edit]