Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles -- And I Do, Too

When I first moved to Los Angeles, my landlord in Boston - an urban planner from the Rhode Island School of Design - gave me a small book as a farewell gift.

On my plane ride West - with countless memories and fears rushing through my mind - I decided to open the volume and began to read.

The truth was, I did not know much about Los Angeles except for some borrowed concepts about urban sprawl and celebrity culture. Relocating to Los Angeles, I thought, was just a career move and nothing else, and I didn't imagine that it would become the place that, 15 years later, I would call home. That farewell gift of Reyner Banham's The Architecture of Four Ecologies was perhaps the first hint I was given of the depth and contradictions of the city, and these issues would become central subjects in my creative and professional life.

Mike Davis, L.A's preeminent 21st cultural historian, would later smartly retool Banham's love letter to Los Angeles' built environment, setting aside his heart-felt optimism for the region in the controversial and darker The Ecology of Fear, Davis' title a play on words on Banham's four ecologies. Although I can't ignore the claims of Davis' chaos theories, I have to confess I prefer the lines of inquiry and celebrations put forth by Banham, Waldie and others, arguments that keep our city moving forwards as it searches for its place in "the rear-view mirror of civilization."

The whole Departures enterprise was born out of this same need to find place. That's why when I found this 1972 BBC documentary about Los Angeles - featuring Reyner! - while doing research on the new Departures installment for Venice, CA, I knew I had to share it with you.

About the Author

Juan Devis is a Public Media artist and producer, whose work crosses across platforms – video, film, interactive media and gaming. His work, regardless of the medium is often produced collaboratively allowing for a greater exchange of ideas in the produ
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Thanks for sharing this Juan. I've personally never taken to Mike Davis' view of the city either. Los Angeles is an evolving city that does not have to be explained executively through the lens of its dark past. This seems to be something that the Departures series thrives on, explaining the sprawling metropolis with the sense of change, diversity and hope in sight.