Reyner Banham

Reyner Banham

Historian of the Immediate Future

By Nigel Whiteley

An intellectual biography of the cultural critic Reyner Banham.





An intellectual biography of the cultural critic Reyner Banham.

Reyner Banham (1922-88) was one of the most influential writers on architecture, design, and popular culture from the mid-1950s to the late 1980s. Trained in mechanical engineering and art history, he was convinced that technology was making society not only more exciting but more democratic. His combination of academic rigor and pop culture sensibility put him in opposition to both traditionalists and orthodox Modernists, but placed him in a unique position to understand the cultural, social, and political implications of the visual arts in the postwar period. His first book, Theory and Design in the First Machine Age (still in print with The MIT Press after forty years), was central to the overhaul of Modernism, and it gave Futurism and Expressionism credibility amid the dynamism and change of the 1960s.

This intellectual biography is the first comprehensive critical examination of Banham's theories and ideas, not only on architecture but also on the wide variety of subjects that interested him. It covers the full range of his oeuvre and discusses the values, enthusiasms, and influences that formed his thinking.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262232166 514 pp. | 7 in x 9 in 89 illus.


$24.95 T ISBN: 9780262731652 514 pp. | 7 in x 9 in 89 illus.


  • ...Nigel Whiteley's timely assessment is engaging and important.

    London Times

  • ...Whitely does an excellent job of presenting the many complex layers of Banham's achievements as a historian and critic.

    Architectural Record

  • ...Nigel Whiteley's brilliant analysis has the energy and scope of Banham's best writing...

    The Washington Post Book World


  • Reynar Banham once described architectural history—at its most interesting—as a 'snap-crackle-pop subject.' Nigel Whiteley's critical reading of Banham's writings and ideas brims with informed discussion and sparkles with insights about one of the twentieth century's liveliest and keenest architectural minds.

    Joan Ockman

    Graduate School of Architecture, Columbia University

  • Reyner Banham's wide-ranging explorations of modern architecture, commercial design, pop culture, and radical urbanism bristled with so many provocative insights that his career's trajectory resisted clear understanding. Now, fortunately, Nigel Whiteley has skillfully reconstructed the personal experiences and intellectual contexts from which Banham emerged as one of the late twentieth-century's most idiosyncratic and perpetually rewarding cultural critics.

    Jeffrey L. Meikle

    Chair, Department of American Studies, University of Texas at Austin

  • Nigel Whiteley ingeniously pulls together the various strands of Reyner Banham's thought. He charts the development of Banham's diverse interests and provides a much-needed critical analysis of his long career as a historian and critic of architecture and design.

    Victor Margolin

    Professor of Design History, University of Illinois at Chicago

  • Along the arc of his distinguished career, from work in an aircraft factory in Bristol, England, to criticism of a solar telescope at Kitt Peak in the Arizona desert, Reyner Banham embraced his time with head and heart. Nigel Whiteley gives a nuanced presentation of Banham's principled flexibility. Readers new to Banham's writing will find vivid analysis, while those already familiar with his ideas will discover fresh insights.

    Kevin Harrington

    Professor of Architectural History, Illinois Institute of Technology

  • Nigel Whiteley expertly maps the daunting intellectual range and enduring architectural principles of the last of the great Modernist historians and polemicists. More impressively, Whiteley captures the playfulness, the mischievous wit, and the delight in playing the provocateur that distinguished Banham in person as well as on the printed page.

    Dell Upton

    Department of Architecture, University of California at Berkeley


  • Winner in the 2002 AAUP Book, Jacket, and Journal competition for excellence in design in the category of Scholarly Illustrated.