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Sir Jim

Reyner Banham, 22 May 1980

Memoirs of an Unjust Fella: An Autobiography 
by J.M. Richards.
Weidenfeld, 279 pp., £10, March 1980, 9780297777670
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... In the travel-starved Fifties, when the journey was often more glamorous than the destination. Sir Hugh Casson began one of his Observer articles: ‘As the airport bus rolled along Chelsea Embankment, I looked up and saw a light burning late in the study of the architectural correspondent of the Times. No doubt he was writing, “Sir Hugh Casson, whose death in an air accident …” ’ A good Cassonian ploy ...

Great Chasm

Reyner Banham, 2 July 1981

Corridors of Time 
by Ron Redfern and Carl Sagan.
Orbis, 198 pp., £25, March 1981, 0 85613 316 7
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... The Great Chasm of the Colorado’, as awe-struck admirers of the Sublime used to call it, is one of the unquestioned show-pieces of North American geology. The word ‘show-piece’ seems appropriate because the Grand Canyon, to give it the name canonised by the advertising of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, is a kind of permanent media-event whose skilful presentation to the viewing public is almost as important as the substance of its topography ...

Arabia Revisita

Reyner Banham, 4 December 1980

Travels in Arabia Deserts 
by Charles Doughty.
Dover, 674 pp., £11.35, June 1980, 0 486 23825 3
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... It was Nugent Monck, perennial director of the Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich, who first set me to reading Doughty’s desert monsterpiece. The ostensible reason was our glee at discovering Henry Reed’s poem about the ‘rose red sissy half as old as time’, which reads remarkably like a description of Monck himself, and which prompted him to direct my attention to the description of the rose-red city of Petra of the Nabataeans in Doughty’s second chapter ...
From Bauhaus to Our House 
by Tom Wolfe.
Cape, 143 pp., £6.95, March 1982, 0 224 02030 7
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... Tom Wolfe’s earlier squib against Modernism, The Painted Word, was a reasonable succès de scandale among those with enough interest in the New York School of painting to want to defend it, but went little further than that. From Bauhaus to Our House, on the other hand, has achieved the unprecedented feat (in architectural publishing) of making its way, albeit briefly, into the American best-seller lists, along with all those diets, cats and Barbara Cartland ...


Hal Foster: Reyner Banham, 9 May 2002

Reyner BanhamHistorian of the Immediate Future 
by Nigel Whiteley.
MIT, 494 pp., £27.50, January 2002, 0 262 23216 2
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... Reyner Banham was as smart and sassy as any critic in the postwar period. What made him distinctive was his passion for the edgiest expressions of his technological age, not only in avant-garde architecture but in anything designed – Cadillacs and transistor radios, custom hot-rods and painted surfboards, gadgets and gizmos; all of which he discussed with great verve in 12 books and over 700 articles ...


Frank Kermode: In Salt Lake City, 21 July 1983

... Even if you enjoy Southern California as much as Reyner Banham you may still, like him, draw the line at those discreetly fenced-in and fortified cities in which the better-off sometimes choose to live, and at whose gates the visitor must check with the guardians before being allowed to enter. I recently spent a few days in one of these suburban paradises ...

It hits in the gut

Will Self, 8 March 2012

Militant Modernism 
by Owen Hatherley.
Zero, 146 pp., £9.99, April 2009, 978 1 84694 176 4
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A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain 
by Owen Hatherley.
Verso, 371 pp., £9.99, July 2011, 978 1 84467 700 9
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... and working within it – remains debatable. Hatherley is ostensibly a critic in the mode of Reyner Banham: freewheeling, spinning out ideas, theories and evaluations that may have their origin in the stony core of the built environment, but which spread to encompass most other aesthetic realms as well. Aesthetic but in Hatherley’s case also ...

End of the Road

Peter Campbell, 17 March 1983

Seeing is forgetting the name of the thing one sees: A Life of Contemporary Artist Robert Irwin 
by Lawrence Weschler.
California, 212 pp., £11.25, June 1982, 0 520 04595 5
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Scenes in America Deserta 
by Reyner Banham.
Thames and Hudson, 228 pp., £8.50, November 1982, 9780500012925
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by Reyner Banham.
Thames and Hudson, 224 pp., £5.95, February 1981, 0 500 27205 0
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... like chess, no matter how spirited the new games, the best openings are already in the books. Reyner Banham, fly and knowing as well as scholarly and knowledgeable, casts himself as the buff, the freak, the aficionado. His great gifts to architectural history have been alternative stories. In Theory and Design in the First Machine Age, he pointed to ...

At the Train Station

Gillian Darley, 20 October 2016

... Price’s giant unbuilt Fun Palace in the East End of London, the graphic visions of Archigram, Reyner Banham’s celebration of the ‘aesthetics of expendability’ and Colin Rowe’s arguments for collage and the reinstatement of the ‘leftovers of the world’ within wider urban design. For their part, civic activists and urban thinkers such as ...

On Richard Hollis

Christopher Turner: Richard Hollis, 24 May 2018

... of the science-fiction movie Forbidden Planet, opened the show because, according to the critic Reyner Banham, he was much ‘easier to book than Marilyn Monroe’. Banham wrote an essay, in the form of concrete poetry, for the accompanying catalogue, which was designed by IG member Edward Wright (who went on to ...

The New Lloyd’s

Peter Campbell, 24 July 1986

Richard Rogers 
by Bryan Appleyard.
Faber, 271 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 571 13976 0
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A Concrete Atlantis 
by Reyner Banham.
MIT, 265 pp., £16.50, June 1986, 0 262 02244 3
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William Richard Lethaby 
by Godfrey Rubens.
Architectural Press, 320 pp., £30, April 1986, 0 85139 350 0
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... Story a movie to give The Fountainhead more than a run for its money. In A Concrete Atlantis Reyner Banham is back picking at the architectural wallpaper to find out what was papered over. The patch he has chosen looks too small to cover anything dramatic: his subject is the 14 illustrations of American grain elevators and factories which Walter ...

Madder Men

Hal Foster: Richard Hamilton on Richard Hamilton, 24 October 2019

Richard Hamilton: Introspective 
by Phillip Spectre.
König, 408 pp., £49, September 2019, 978 3 88375 695 0
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... relics (it looked as though it had been ‘excavated after the atomic holocaust’, the critic Reyner Banham remarked). On the proto-Pop side of the IG were Hamilton, John McHale and the architect John Voelcker, who contrived a fairground ‘crazy house’ on the theme of the new sensorium produced by mass media; among other images and objects, it ...

Erase, Deface, Transform

Hal Foster: Eduardo Paolozzi, 16 February 2017

Eduardo Paolozzi 
Whitechapel Gallery, until 18 May 2017Show More
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... William Turnbull and Magda Cordell, the architects Peter and Alison Smithson, and the critic Reyner Banham. In the late 1980s the Smithsons looked back on the ‘as found’ aesthetic of New Brutalism as ‘a confronting recognition of what the postwar world actually was like’: ‘In a society that had nothing you reached for what there ...

Wine Flasks in Bordeaux, Sail Spires in Cardiff

Hal Foster: Richard Rogers, 19 October 2006

Richard Rogers: Architecture of the Future 
by Kenneth Powell.
Birkhäuser, 520 pp., £29.90, December 2005, 3 7643 7049 1
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Richard Rogers: Complete Works, Vol. III 
by Kenneth Powell.
Phaidon, 319 pp., £59.95, July 2006, 0 7148 4429 2
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... of what post-industrial design might look like (‘most of us want it to look like something,’ Reyner Banham once remarked; ‘we don’t want form to follow function into oblivion’). In this regard the Beaubourg was not as far-out as the ‘clip-on’ and ‘plug-in’ idiom of Archigram, with its ‘visually wild rich mess of piping and wiring and ...

If you don’t swing, don’t ring

Christopher Turner: Playboy Mansions, 21 April 2016

Pornotopia: An Essay on Playboy’s Architecture and Biopolitics 
by Beatriz Preciado.
Zone, 303 pp., £20.95, October 2014, 978 1 935408 48 2
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Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny 
by Holly Madison.
Dey Street, 334 pp., £16.99, July 2015, 978 0 06 237210 9
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... 1960, in an article for the Architects’ Journal – ‘I’d crawl a mile for … Playboy’ – Reyner Banham claimed he only read it for the architecture and design. ‘Playboy over the years has discussed and illustrated quite a lot of furniture,’ he wrote in the magazine’s defence, arguing that it had done more for design in the US than House ...

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