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Reyner Banham: Myths, meanings & forms of 20th century architecture (March 26, 1976) Part 2 of 201:02:10

Reyner Banham discusses the work of American industrial designer Walter Dorwin Teague as a more genuine machine aesthetic than Le Corbusier's architecture. Banham concludes by returning to his disagreement with Colin Rowe. On one hand, he agrees with Rowe that that the machine age mythology of economy, function, and life-enhancement, cannot be dismissed simply in terms of “Wrong forms, right meanings.” Rowe is also probably correct that the machine age mythology would never been understood if it hadn’t been encoded in forms that were already familiar to architects and the public—the sphere, the cone—even if these were not the parabolic forms being developed by contemporary technology. However Banham argues that Rowe and the New York Five are naïve if they think they can detach the formal language of modernism from their original Utopian meanings. Banham responds to questions from the audience. Asked about Century City he describes it as an “off the peg downtown,” and stresses how remarkably long-lived the International Style has proved to be. Asked about the Rationalist movement, Banham praises Léon and Rob Krier for demonstrating the continuing power of the neoclassical vision, though doubts any of their work should be built. This leads to a heated debate about neoclassicism, with some in the audience dismissing all classicism as Fascism. Banham and the audience debate the interaction of politics, utopianism and architecture both historically and in the contemporary context, mentioning Schindler, Neutra, and Ungers. He discusses the environmental movement as a primarily American, specifically Californian, phenomenon, that reacts to the machine age fixation on Manhattan and Chicago’s Loop as the city of the future. To a question about the impact on architecture of the 1976 UK Budget Crisis, Banham responds that it’s impossible to guess what will happen. To a comment that this makes planning impossible, he retorts, “Planning’s always been impossible.”

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