In the late 1960s, a tall and ungainly Englishman named Peter Reyner Banham brought his shaggy beard and wonky teeth to Los Angeles and declared that he loved the city with a passion. It helped that, as a visiting architecture professor (Banham was teaching at USC), he was given some pretty fancy digs: He stayed in Greene & Greene’s Gamble house in Pasadena, one of the most beautiful and romantic houses in America. So Banham had a privileged base from which to explore. But what he went looking for, and the way he wrote about what he saw and felt, redefined the way the intellectual world — and then the wider world — perceived the city. Reyner’s ” Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies” — first published in 1971 — has now been reissued in a new edition with an excellent introduction by architect and scholar Joe Day. It is a landmark in the history of writing L.A. Banham came from abroad, but he came, not to escape something, not to try to reinvent himself or to sneer at us. He came to celebrate, and, in 1971, this bucked a 40-year trend in which Los Angeles had been cast as a schlock dystopia. Banham declared (outrageously, many said at the time) that L.A. was a great city, praising not only the émigré modernist designs of its architect pioneers like Rudolph Schindler and Richard Neutra but also its busy vernacular: gas stations, surfboards, muscle cars and freeways.
more from Richard Rayner at the LA Times here.