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City of Fantasies: Reyner Banham and the Architecture of LA

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In the late 1960s, revered journalist Adam Raphael described Los Angeles as a 'stinking sewer'. The southern California metropolis was perceived to have no culture and little architecture of merit. But for English architectural critic Reyner Banham, Los Angeles was a city of fantasies. In the landmark BBC documentary Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles (1972), he mounts a case for Los Angeles as a 'super city of the future' as he tours the progressive Case Study Houses project, which commissioned major architects of the dayto create inexpensive and efficient model homes. Banham argued that these modernist buildings 'showed the world that machine-age materials like glass and steel could be beautiful, even pretty, and make a proper setting for beautiful objects.'

In this HENI Talk, Professor Richard Williams discusses how Reyner Banham transformed the world's understanding of Los Angeles, and revisits some of the district's iconic houses by architectural greats such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles and Ray Eames, Richard Neutra, Pierre Koenig and John Lautner.

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Richard J. Williams is Professor of Contemporary Visual Cultures at the University of Edinburgh where he has worked since 2000. Before that, he studied fine art at Goldsmiths College, and history of art at the University of Manchester. His work deals mainly with modern and contemporary architecture and urban theory; the representation of cities in film and TV is a major interest. His books include, The Anxious City (2004), Brazil: Modern Architectures in History (2009), Sex and Buildings (2013), The Architecture of Art History (with Mark Crinson, 2018) and Why Cities Look the Way They Do (2018). He is currently writing a book about the architectural historian and critic Reyner Banham.

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