Reyner Banham examined the built environment of Los Angeles in a way no architectural historian before him had done, looking with fresh eyes at its manifestations of popular taste and industrial ingenuity, as well as its more traditional modes of residential and commercial building. His construct of "four ecologies" examined the ways Angelenos relate to the beach, the freeways, the flatlands, and the foothills. Banham delighted in this mobile city and identified it as an exemplar of the posturban future.
"A light-hearted and affectionate tribute to Los Angeles. . . . Banham sees not the burnt, lunar landscape of the fiction writers, but a benign littoral where sea, mountains, valleys, and plain form a natural environment that charms as well as challenges its inhabitants. To the historian of architecture, it is the cityscape itself that is most fascinating, providing him with the materials of his strongest attack on the literary conventions about Los Angeles." (Francis Carney, New York Review of Books)
"The true language of Los Angeles is the language of movement, says Banham. 'So . . . I learned to drive in order to read Los Angeles in the original.' . . . A generous and exhilarating joyride." (Roger Jellinek, The New York Times)
"Banham, with his nose for architectural news, was bound to celebrate Los Angeles: it is just his cup of Coca-Cola. The celebration is enjoyable, often shrewd, sometimes superficial and diffuse, as travellers' tales are. This city 'seventy miles square but rarely seventy years deep' defies the limitations of conventional architectural history, the author says, forcing him to describe its topographical and historical context too." (Times Literary Supplement)
Author Biography: Reyner Banham (1922-1988) was Sheldon H. Solow Professor of the History of Architecture at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, and Professor of Art History at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Among his many books are A Critic Writes (California, 1996) and Theory and Design in the First Machine Age (1961). Anthony Vidler is Professor and Chair of Art History at the University of California, Los Angeles. His most recent book is Warped Space: Art, Architecture, and Anxiety in Modern Culture (2000).
Los Angeles deserves to be read today not for its prescience or as a quaint historical artifact, but as a model on how to read any city.