On the Bus With Banham

A tour of unseen LA—in the spirit of Reyner Banham—rambles through the city

We board the bus and sit down to a photo of beloved British architecture critic Reyner Banham, whose early appreciation of Los Angeles set him apart from other urban theorists. In the slide on the bus’s overhead monitors he is riding his bicycle, a slightly odd choice, given that one of Banham’s most-quoted phrases is, “I learned to drive in order to read Los Angeles in the original,” but later there will be plenty of shots of Banham in his rented car during an on-board screening of One Pair of Eyes: Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles a fantastic BBC documentary of his 1972 visit to LA.

Our tour guide, Richard Schave of Esotouric, is dressed in tweed and looks just as likely to burst into a song from Chicago as he is to lead us from downtown LA to hidden architectural gems in the inland neighborhoods of Vernon, Bell Gardens, Santa Fe Springs, and Downey. Schave and his partners, Nathan Marsak and Kim Cooper, were all grad students of Banham’s at UC Santa Cruz in the 1980’s. They are clearly devotees calling him “a zany Englishman that just kept coming out to LA and getting these kooky ideas.” Those ideas eventually became Theory and Design in the First Machine Age and Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies, which are the basis for this bus tour that the guides hope will underscore their claim: “The dream of Southern California is just as valid in South LA as the Hollywood Hills.”

Click here to begin the virtual Banham bus tour.

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