The Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment by Reyner Banham

By Reyner Banham

Reyner Banham used to be a pioneer in arguing that expertise, human wishes, and environmental issues needs to be thought of an essential component of structure. No historian earlier than him had so systematically explored the impression of environmental engineering at the layout of constructions and at the minds of architects. during this revision of his vintage paintings, Banham has additional massive new fabric at the use of power, really solar power, in human environments. integrated within the new fabric are discussions of Indian pueblos and sun structure, the Centre Pompidou and different high-tech constructions, and the environmental knowledge of many present architectural vernaculars.

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T h e ripe decoration w h i c h characterised s u c h objects m a y or m a y not have b e e n there primarily at the behest o f ripe V i c t o r i a n tastes in decorative art, b u t the depth o f its relief, its undercuttings and 56 convolutions, also appear to have d o n e m u c h to trap sooty waste within the confines o f the ornamentation, and discourage it from spreading right across the ceiling. H o w e v e r , the worst o f the p r o b l e m was s u d d e n l y avoided b y a major breakthrough in gas-lighting t e c h n o l o g y at the b e g i n n i n g o f the 1880's, w h e n the egregious A u s t r i a n inventor, B a r o n A u e r v o n W e l s b a c h p r o d u c e d a commercially viable gas mantle—that is, a b u l b o f fireproof fabric impregnated w i t h oxides o f rare earths w h i c h w o u l d incandesce in the heat o f a gas flame.

20. This document, found among the vast deposit of technical pamphlets that have come to rest in the N e w York Public Library (Bound Pamphlets, V E W , p v i 2 , N o . 1) appears from its format and content to have been some sort of annual address to the N e w York Branch of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. c any demons he m a y have overlooked ( m a n y other factors'). T h i s was h o w he had observed the situation according to the evidence o f his o w n nose. T h e pre-occupation w i t h b o d y odours m a y strike m o d e r n readers as a trifle obsessive and neurotic, b u t so general and emphatic was the apparent nasal evidence on this subject that the belief in an organic poison, mentioned b y K i m b a l l (above), is understandable—what else could have caused the unmistakable and ever-present 'stuffy s m e l l ' in o c c u p i e d interiors, especially at a time w h e n the k n o w l e d g e o f air-borne bacteria was b e g i n n i n g to diffuse a m o n g the general p u b l i c ?

You don't lift waterpipes and gas-pipes up on stilts. 12 12 insisted on saddling h i m s e l f w i t h the task o f inventing satisfactory and properly insulated u n d e r g r o u n d conductors for his p o w e r , cited in Thirty Years of New York, a promotional history published by the Edison C o . , New York, 1913. instead o f imitating the overhead cables o f telephone practice, w h i c h used the surrounding air as a cheap insulator. Nevertheless, telephone practice, in various w a y s , p l a y e d a large part in Edison's t r i u m p h .

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