Reyner Banham on Solar Heating

In an earlier post, I briefly discussed Reyner Banham's importance and influence on me.  See: Reyner Banham's Unwarranted Apology

In 1977, Banham participated in an "Educators Roundtable" and offered some pointed remarks about building energy use and solar heating.  As usual, these comments are insightful and original, reflective of both the times and enduring themes, and really funny:

 "I approve very strongly of energy conscious design --- all we consumers, who have to pay for the energy architects make us waste, approve it.  I do not approve the energy-neurotic design attitudes that have turned much architectural teaching into a species of witch hunting of late, especially as this was merely over compensation for generations of energy-ignorant teaching going back to the Beaux-Arts.
I would rather entrust students to someone like Philip Johnson who frankly says that, "It is only air conditioning that makes my architecture tolerable," than to the kind of faculty-radical who fails any project that is not build of three-foot thick adobe and powered by chicken shit."

"I would ask only that students be able to produce an approximate energy budget:
1) For day-to-day operation of their design at reasonable comfort levels.
2) For the original structural investment, including energy consumed in bringing materials to the site.
3) For 1) and 2) together over the probable life of the building (since this will often disqualify massive construction however fashionable at the time).
In general, I hope never again to find myself the only member of the jury who asks about solar heat gain, only to be told to shut up because historians aren't supposed to know about that kind of stuff!"

A few remarks.  First, I hope we are now entering a time when historians are supposed to know about that kind of stuff!  Second, in my experience, architecture students today are not able to do what he only asks in the second quotation (except for computer simulations), so I'm not sure we've come very far in 35+ years in terms of that particular intelligence.

And third, for all his lucidity and clarity here, Banham had an inconsistent or paradoxical side.  As I mention in the book, he visited Steve Baer's house, and wrote derisively of “Wood-burning Baer” and criticized the house’s technology as “far from radical ... individualistic, property-oriented, conservative and defensive.” And elsewhere I'm preparing a paper which will attempt to reconcile his futurist-mechanistic impulses (living in a perfectly-controlled polythene bubble) and his romantic admiration for Greene and Greene's Gamble house.

"Educators Roundtable," Journal of Architectural Education, February 1977.
"The Sage of Corrales," New Society, 1983.