Reyner Banham (1922-1988) was a British architectural critic and historian known for his extensive writings on modern architecture, including his influential book “Theory and Design in the First Machine Age” (1960) and his book “Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies” (1971).
Banham’s writing was known for its wit, clarity, and accessibility, and he played a significant role in popularizing modern architecture and design. His work continues to be studied and admired by architects, critics, and historians today.
“The Concrete Atlantis” is a fascinating and insightful exploration of the use of concrete in modern architecture and urbanism. Banham’s writing is engaging and accessible, and his arguments are backed up by a wealth of historical research and analysis.
One of the strengths of the book is Banham’s ability to connect the use of concrete to the unique environmental, cultural, and technological factors that shaped European Modern Architecture during the mid-20th century. He demonstrates how concrete was not only a practical building material, but also a symbol of modernity and progress, and a reflection of aspirations for the future.
Banham also highlights the diverse range of architectural styles and forms that were developed using concrete, from the futuristic “Googie” style of diners and gas stations to the sleek, minimalist designs of mid-century modern homes. He argues that these buildings were not just functional structures, but also expressions of the region’s identity and values.
However, one potential weakness of the book is Banham’s focus on the positive aspects of concrete architecture, without fully exploring its drawbacks and limitations. For example, he acknowledges that concrete has environmental and social impacts, but does not fully engage with these issues or propose alternative solutions.
“The Concrete Atlantis” is a valuable contribution to the study of modern architecture and urbanism, and provides an engaging and informative glimpse into the unique cultural and environmental factors that shaped our world during the mid-20th century.
Reyner Banham taught at a number of institutions throughout his career. He began teaching at the University of London’s School of Architecture in 1952, where he became a lecturer in 1955. He also taught at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London from 1956 to 1964, and at the University of California, Berkeley from 1964 to 1967.
In 1968, Banham began teaching at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he held the position of Professor of Art History. He remained at UCLA until his death in 1988, and during his time there he became a highly respected and influential member of the architecture and design community in Southern California
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