Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles

By Scott M B Gustafson

Welcome to Los Angeles.
Supercity of the Future.
Metropolis of Southern California.

Architectural critic Reyner Banham explores Los Angeles in this 1972 BBC documentary. This film is a great compliment to his book “Los Angeles : The Architecture of Four Ecologies.” From Watts to Beverly Hills, Hollywood to the Pacific Palisades, Venice, Olvera Street, Century Boulevard, the 405, Santa Monica, Pasadena and beyond, Banham covers it all. In the film it is very interesting to see Los Angeles as it existed in the years before I was born. It seems wilder, freer and perhaps more ready to accept diverse interpretations and developments than it does today.

I am re-reading Banham’s famous treatise, and I will probably revisit Kevin Lynch’s chapter on LA in “The Image of the City“. In a city with great geographic width and (seemingly) little historical depth, I appreciate the views of those writers who came to the city with fresh eyes, unburdened or biased and took a grand survey of what was really happening here. Kevin Lynch’s notion of Mental Maps for understanding the city has certainly been amplified through the advent of technologies like GPS, Yelp, and augmented reality. Los Angeles remains a great social experiment and in my opinion, the cultural capital of the United States.

Reyner Banham - Los Angeles : The Architecture of Four Ecologies

The man himself and his glorious ode to the metropolis. Image source: KCET


Temple of sport.

Imagined images of the urban situation. Image source Jason Skibo.