Julian Cooper - Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles (1972)
Monday, December 24, 2007
Long before Los Angeles's contribution to modern culture became widely recognized, British architectural historian Reyner Banham proclaimed it one of the world's great cities.
Banham's influential yet controversial book Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies (1971) saw beauty in the city's sprawling layout and car-based urbanism.
Shortly after the book's publication, the BBC documented Banham's vision of Los Angeles for an episode of its series One Pair of Eyes.
The documentary, Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles (1972, 52 min.), takes the viewer on a tongue-in-cheek tour of the city's cultural landscape.
The trip includes stops at iconic landmarks such as Simon Rodia's Watts Towers and the Lovell "Health" House designed by Richard Neutra (a photograph of the latter is on view in the Getty Research Institute's current exhibition Julius Shulman, Modernity and the Metropolis), as well as mini-malls, drive-thrus, and strip clubs.
An entertaining and thoughtful examination of a metropolis in motion, the film documents a city situated at the divide between the modern era's clean lines and faith in progress—as captured in the work of architectural photographer Julius Shulman—and what has been described as Banham's "Pop Art" view, with its sparkle-front houses, Tiki huts, and jarring juxtapositions.
Reyner Banham (1922-1988) was a prolific architectural critic and writer best known for his 1960 theoretical treatise "Theory and Design in the First Machine Age", and his 1971 book "Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies" in which he categorized the Angelean experience into four ecological models (Surfurbia, Foothills, The Plains of Id, and Autopia) and explored the distinct architectural cultures of each ecology.
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