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Radical Movements and Radical Thinkers.

An Analysis of Reyner Banhams Look into the Futurist Movement and the True Author of the Futurist Manifesto.

Library Project Professor Sherry McKay October 4, 2012

Emily Warkentin

When it comes to studying the isms of art and architecture, there are those that take

the spotlight, and those that tend to fade into the background. Modernism and Classicism for example, are never excluded from a well-rounded knowledge in the history of past movements, while some lesser-studied, short-lived radical movements quite often get less attention. Of these sidebar radical movements, Futurism arguably gained the most popularity despite its short season and several of its primary masterminds being sacriced to World War One. What I nd the most compelling regarding the Futurist movement is that many principals of the iconic Modern movement can be traced back to the Futurist movement (DESIGN, 124). This radical movement and its key players have been thoroughly analyzed by Reyner Banham in Theory and Design in the First machine Age. I will be looking at the reading Sant Elia and the Futurist Architecture. There were very few buildings ever realized in the Futurist style for its ideas were

radically complex and and perhaps too far advanced society whose main concerns were probably centered on World War One. This movement therefore was more widely adopted in art than in architecture (Watkins, 628). Antonio Sant Elia was primarily an architect, but skilled as an artist and even though he died before his work reached the public, is considered one of the most inuential characters in the story of the Futurist movement. One such piece was his Manifesto of Futurist Architecture which was released to the public via Filippo Tomaso Marinetti, mad genius behind the movement (Design, 124). Banhams text aims to debunk the myth and prove through analyses of the manifestos content, style and underlying themes that it was indeed matched the values and taste and t and life context of Sant ELia and therefore must be the true author and not by Ugo Nebbia, art critic and journalist.

Reyner Banhams voice rings loud in discussions on design the world over and his

studies at the Courtauld Institute of Art make him a trusted resource. He himself had a are for the radical and wrote boldly of his topics. He was a founding member of the Independent Group, an arm of the Institute of Contemporary Arts. He was concerned that the lesser technological art... were not placed at the bottom of the ne art hierarchy and worked to defend the standing of these less popular designs (Sparke, 141). In light of this, it is no surprise that Banham defends so surely that Sant Elia wrote the Futurist Manifesto; another radical thinker working in a eld of little popularity. Banhams style is concise and unobstructed by wordy jargon and in further attempts

to convey his message clearly, he includes the entire text on which he is performing his analysis. I personally found this helpful in cementing his arguments and this approach made it easy to reference his statements back to the original text. The reader may draw his own conclusions and analyze Banhams arguments for himself. Being that Futurism had greater legs in the two-dimensional world than in built form, it is highly effective for students of the movement that he included key imagery and explanations so that readers may grasp the truly radical spirit of Sant Elias work. He offers a look into the political and social challenges of the time that were due in part to the war and the worlds growing dependence and fascination with technology and machine, as well as the desire for simplication that parallels a war. He acknowledges that as the population was rapidly readjusting life in every aspect, the discomfort in the new was grounds for questioning the products of a highly radical movement such as Futurism. Banham points out that discomfort brings questions, thus the accusations that Sant Elia did not author the Futurist Manifesto.

I feel that this was a wisely chosen text to accompany an in-class lecture on Sant

Elia and Futurism. While a lecture offers a detailed analysis of the movements style, principals and nature, this reading is a window into some contextual issues and controversies surrounding the movement and its visionaries. Both lecture and text in this case work symbiotically to provide a grounded and well-rounded picture of this radical movement. Banham, a leader of architectural writing in the mid twenty-rst century, has threaded history into a textual analysis in such a clear manner that I feel not only informed on the direct subject of his text, but on how to conduct an informed analysis of an architectural sample of writing. Banham looks into the histories of each of the possible authors of the Manifesto of Futurist architecture in order to have a more detailed understanding of how each might write and what events might have inuenced each as an author. Banhams reading is an example of how we as students of the history and theory of architecture must approach each sample of work. We must be able to place the author and the text itself in its context before we can accept anything as truth. This reading serves as a reminder of the power of social inuence and the power of publication. I feel that Reyner Banham was the appropriate author for this analysis as these themes parallel his own life of defending the radical and inuencing the world through his publications of analyses and critique.

Works Cited

Banham, Reyner. Sant Elia and the Futurist Architecture in Theory and Design in the First Machine AgeI. pp 127-137, 42-50. The Architectural Association Press. 1960.

Bayley, Stephen and Terence Conran. Design: Intelligence Made Visible. Conran Octopus, 2007. Print.

Sparke, Penny. Peter Reyner Banham 1922-1988. Journal of Design History. Vol 1, No 2 (1988), pp. 141-42. Design History Society. Web.

Watkin, David. A History of Western Architecture. 5th Ed. London, 2011. Print.

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