Banham, Peter Reyner

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Banham, Peter Reyner (1922–88). British architectural critic, historian, and polemicist. He was a promoter and chronicler of New Brutalism and the Machine Aesthetic in Architectural Review and elsewhere, and he quickly became recognized as an influential observer of contemporary architecture and design. His Theory and Design in the First Machine Age (1960) was a reassessment of the history of the Modern Movement: it was followed by The New Brutalism (1966), The Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment (1969—in which he described architecture determined by its mechanical services), Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies (1971), Age of the Masters (1975), and Megastructure (1976). He left the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London (where he had a Personal Chair), in 1976 to take up academic posts in the USA, after which he published Scenes in America Deserta (1982) and enthusiastic interpretations of American life and urban developments. He was a prolific writer contributing to New Society and many other journals, and was vitriolic about the retreat from the Modern Movement known as Neo-Liberty in Italy, which he described as ‘infantile regression’. Believing that the design of a machine, such as a refrigerator, could be subjected to the same processes of research and analysis as any building, or painting, he combined meticulous attention to source-material (learned from his mentor Pevsner) with his ability to look at problems from new positions. However, by the beginning of C21, many of his judgements and opinions seemed somewhat outmoded, perhaps because of his ardour for what was new, trendy, populist, fashionable, and supposedly futuristic in the 1960s and 1970s.


Anno Domini, xxx/9 (1960), 375–6;
Arkansas, cxxv/747 (April 1959), 231–5, and cxxvi/754 (Dec. 1959), 341–4;
M. Banham et al. (eds.) (1997);
R. Banham (1959, 1960, 1966, 1971, 1975, 1976, 1994);
ODNB (2004);
S. Richardson (1987a);
Whiteley (2002)