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A Home Is Not a House, Reyner Banham

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Student’s name: Dilara Murzagaliyeva

Tutor’s name: Catalina

Essay due on: 9th January 2015

Architect’s Writing: A Home Is Not A House, Reyner Banham

AD 473 – First Year Studio:

Architecture Humanities I

Essay (1800 words)

[1]Reyner Banham has been one of the widely recognised and influential writers on architecture and design. Raised as an engineer Reyner had a unique vision towards the contemporary modernism in the architectural design. His uniqueness was the result of the combination of the academic’s rigour, the writer’s lightness of touch and the fascination for modern technology. [2]Hence he often was perceived as a vigorous and disruptive in his critical statements. He pictured architecture not only by the image, but by the quality of experience in its space, construction, form, and material. Banham was certain that the theory of modernity in architectural design demanded a radical and constructive renewal.  

[3]Nevertheless his colleagues architects believed that he was one of the few founders of architecture criticism that eventually opened the doors for other writers to pursue such profession. Indeed, Reyner had an ability to understand both the social and political involvement of visual arts in architecture and somehow his writing style had a way to be anything but cynical and descriptive.  

[4]Since the very early youth Banham became very interested by the American pop culture. Reyner was attracted to this country as he saw the evidence of the opportunity to implement technology on a
mass scale which would satisfy his goal to ‘‘fit environments for human activities’’.

Therefore this essay focally concentrates on his article ‘‘A Home Is Not a House’’ published in April 1965, where he argued against the established structure of the domestic houses in the North America (NA), which were built poorly without a necessary protection from the climate changes. Such housing structure required a specific maintenance such as widespread use of heating pumps, a general waste of energy that led to insufficient usage of natural resources. [5]Banham stated that American houses are created as a very preserved vacuum that concealed and perpetuated the constant technological maintenance without making any room for environment. He believed the conventional buildings created a problem rather than a solution for human inhabitation. [6]Further he reckoned that the proper use of relevant technological modification would make the houses habitable and defined “home” as the integration of complex relationships between architecture and technological habits.  Likewise, Reyner interpreted it as a coming inevitable mechanical progress which would threaten the long-established role of architecture as a creator of open spaces.

The essay is aimed to review and analyse the article ‘‘A Home Is Not a House’’ by Reyner Banham, primarily the main criticism towards the North American housing architecture and proposed solutions  to enhance it by implementing the technological  innovation.

[7]“A Home Is Not a House” is a unique interpretation of Reyner’s point of view in relation to the development of contemporary modernism in the North America. The Reyner’s work has been published just in the period when Reyner was captivated in investigating the role of technical services in the modern architecture. The article might be perceived as a direct criticism towards the inhabitability of the housing architecture. Nevertheless one of the vital meanings of the article is a deep concern for the lack of development of environmental sustainability. With this in mind, Banham suggested two ways of controlling the environment, the first solution would be to avoid the problem and hide under a roof or to interfere with the local meteorology for instance by utilising a campfire. [8]In other words, Reyner believed that the architecture can’t be hold with the boundaries when creating a home for people. On the other hand it has to pursue “the freedom and variability” in all of its forms and shapes.

[9]Moreover, in the “A Home is not a House,” Reyner analysed the history of the housing architecture by making interesting comparisons of domestic houses to a shell, which illustrated as useless to protect “…those inside from the environment…” [10]Moreover, the article demonstrates a comparison between an American and European architecture, by showing the negligence of American architects to efficiently optimise the provided environmental resources. For instance, the author has directly made a statement that “… Americans do not monumentalise or make architecture”, which is misleading the readers to assume that the American architects are incompetent to perform in accordance with the standards. [11]Furthermore Banham openly criticised the priority need for Americans to “…pump more heat, light and power into their shelters than have other peoples.” As the result the author describes the domestic houses as large volumes wrapped in flimsy shells which have to be lighted and heated in more generous and different way in contrast with the concept of cubicular European interiors traditions of domestic architecture. However one might argue that the article leads to a subjective elucidation that the domestic housing architecture in its worst position and demanding the necessary changes to implement into the structure of the American architecture.

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