Video Archive | Machine Age (4)

Reyner Banham Myths Meanings And Forms Of Twentieth...
Reyner Banham discusses the work of American industrial designer Walter Dorwin Teague as a more genuine machine aesthetic than Le...
Reyner Banham Myths Meanings And Forms Of Twentieth...
As a preface to his lecture, Banham presents a Super 8 short of an Archigram megastructure model in flames. Banham characterizes...
Reyner Banham Myths Meanings And Forms Of Twentieth...
Reyner Banham answers questions from the audience. He is asked about Los Angeles's ecologies and architecture. He answers by...
Reyner Banham Myths Meanings And Forms Of Twentieth...
After presenting a short movie of “the end of the megastructure dream,” Banham describes his lecture as a discussion of...

Reyner Banham Myths Meanings And Forms Of Twentieth Century Architecture Part Two

Reyner Banham discusses the work of American industrial designer Walter Dorwin Teague as a more genuine machine aesthetic than Le Corbusier’s architecture. Banham concludes by returning to his disagreement with Colin Rowe. On one hand, he agrees with Rowe that that the machine age mythology of economy, function, and life-enhancement, cannot be dismissed simply in terms of “Wrong forms, right meanings.” Rowe is also probably correct that the machine age mythology would never been understood if it hadn’t been encoded in forms that were already familiar to architects and the public—the sphere, the cone—even if these were not the parabolic forms being developed
by contemporary technology. However Banham argues that Rowe and the New York Five are na?ve if they think they can detach the formal language of modernism from their original utopian meanings. Banham responds to questions from the audience. Asked about Century City he describes it as an “off the peg downtown,” and stresses how remarkably long-lived the International Style has proved to be. Asked about the Rationalist movement, Banham praises L?on and Rob Krier for demonstrating the continuing power of the neoclassical vision, though doubts any of their work should be built. This leads to a heated debate about neoclassicism, with some in the audience dismissing all classicism as Fascism. Banham and the audience debate the interaction of politics, utopianism and architecture both historically and in the contemporary context, mentioning Schindler, Neutra, and Ungers. He discusses the environmental movement as a primarily American, specifically Californian, phenomenon, that reacts to the machine age fixation on Manhattan and Chicago’s Loop as the city of the future. To a question about the impact on architecture of the 1976 UK Budget Crisis, Banham responds that it’s impossible to guess what will happen. To a comment that this makes planning impossible, he retorts, “Planning’s always been impossible.”


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As a preface to his lecture, Banham presents a Super 8 short of an Archigram megastructure model in flames. Banham characterizes his topic as the association and development of meanings and forms connected to machine age architecture. He reveals that the lecture was, in part, inspired by an article Colin Rowe wrote about Banham’s views of modernity. He also describes twentieth century architecture’s obsession with keeping in step with technology, and how myths and meanings become associated with forms and styles.


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Reyner Banham answers questions from the audience. He is asked about Los Angeles’s ecologies and architecture. He answers by citing examples from his lecture, specifically the development and planning of the infrastructural layering of Los Angeles’s Downtown buildings, freeways system, and pedestrian habits. He goes on to discuss the proliferation of the International Style and how it will shape architecture’s future.


Reyner Banham Myths Meanings And Forms Of Twentieth Century Architecture Part One

March 26, 1976 |
Introduction by:

After presenting a short movie of “the end of the megastructure dream,” Banham describes his lecture as a discussion of another dream, the modernist dream, developed in the 1920s, of an architecture in step with technology, “whose wreckage is still with us.” He quotes a passage from Colin Rowe’s preface to the 1975 Five Architects catalog, which characterizes Banham’s approach as “a repudiation of modern architecture’s form and an endorsement of what the modern movement, theoretically, was supposed to be.” Banham characterizes his talk as a response to Rowe. Banham discusses buildings from the mid-1920s like Ernst May’s low-cost housing in Frankfurt which gave some validity to the myth that buildings in a modernist style were economical to build. He discusses Le Corbusier’s “dream world of engineering,” and how he interpreted mass produced products from pipes to ocean liners as perfect solutions to specific needs, created not by a designer but self-created by “the law of mechanical selection.” Banham explores the contradiction in Corbusier’s praise of engineering over design, with his preference for specific shapes and forms, by comparing Corbusier’s discussion of mass-produced automobiles and Corbusier’s houses through his 1935 Weekend House. He begins to discuss the influence of Gropius on the second generation of modernist architects when the tape ends.