Rediscovering Reyner Banham’s Los Angeles

Originally published 2nd quarter 2006 in arcCA 06.2, “L.A.”

Always contextualize. This was Reyner Banham’s golden rule in his book Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies (New York: Harper & Row, 1971). Now thirty-five years old, the book should not be consigned to some antiquarian bookstore, nor smothered by respectful scrutiny or canonization. Banham discovered new ways of seeing and writing about cities that are just as vibrant and relevant in today’s urbanizing world. His was an architecture in place; he wrote a new kind of urban history, and in so doing irrevocably changed the way the world understood Los Angeles. When observers scornfully mocked L.A.’s “monotony, not unity” and “confusion rather than variety,” Banham claimed that the fault lay with them, not with the city. Their misapprehensions, he averred, resulted because the “context” had escaped them. Any perceived chaos was a product of their minds alone, for it was not something present in Los Angeles

Read the full article on the AIA California Council website