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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.

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Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles is a 1972 BBC Films production following architectural historian Reyner Banham as he tours the “four ecologies” of Los Angeles: Surfurbia (beach), Foothills (basin), The Plains of Id (foothills), and Autopia (freeways) by automobile. | Image via AHBE LAB

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.