For the Summer 2014 issue of The Southampton Review. Thanks to editor Lou Ann Walker!
In this 1972 BBC Films production, architectural historian Reyner Banham takes the viewer on a tour of what he describes as the “four ecologies” of the city of Los Angeles: Surfurbia, Foothills, The Plains of Id, and Autopia (beach, basin, foothills, freeways). Noted for his seminal book of essays, Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies, published the year before, Banham argued that Los Angeles could not be understood according to more traditional theories of urbanism. An Englishman in L.A., Banham exudes an almost giddy enthusiasm for the energy of the highway and celebrates the so-called “marginal” qualities of the city, like its gas stations, suburban architecture, and highways. Banham stated “like earlier generations of English intellectuals who taught themselves Italian in order to read Dante in the original, I learned to drive to read Los Angeles in the original.” Indeed, Los Angeles struck Banham as unique in the way it evolved around the infrastructure of highways and the automobile: an city made possible by oil and a new-found personal mobility.
Explaining the Future to an Extinct Hare, Laurie Hassold