For most, Los Angeles did not become a serious object of study until 1971, when British architectural historian Reynard Banham wrote his seminal Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies, the first book to explore the car-based urbanism and ideological landscape of Los Angeles' social ecology and built environment. Banham gave serious weight to the city's iconic architecture, endless freeways and disparate social practices long before writers such as Kevin Starr and Mike Davis would popularize the city in the American historical imaginary.
In early December 2005, the Getty hosted a rare screening of the 1972 BBC documentary Reynard Banham Loves Los Angeles in conjunction with its Julius Schulman exhibition. In the film, Banham is a tour guide to his distinctive vision of LA, with stops at such locales as Watts Tower, the gated communities in Palos Verdes, and various drive-throughs along Wilshire Boulevard. In addition to the screening, USC's Amy Murphy and UC Irvine's Edward Dimendberg delivered brilliant lectures on Banham's work in relationship to various historical, filmic and artistic representations of LA throughout the 20th century.
If you missed the Getty event, there is an excellent substitute here in Orange County: on Wednesday, UCI visual studies professor Cécile Whiting examines LA Pop artists in the 1960s whose art contributed to LA's urban identity as an emerging art center. The talk is based on Whiting's research for her forthcoming book, Pop LA: Picturing the City in the 1960s, due out from UC Press this March.
Cécile Whiting lectures at the UCI University Club Forum, 801 E. Peltason Dr., Irvine, (949) 824-7960; www.uclub.uci.edu. Wed. Lunch and lecture, 11:30 a.m. $9-$10.25; Julius Shulman, Modernity and the Metropolis on display at the Getty Center, 1200 Getty Center Dr., Los Angeles, (310) 440-7300. Call for hours. Through Jan. 22. Free.