Mythical Vernacular Monuments
Reyner Banham (Architectural Historian)


Reyner Banham, 1982

©Monica Pidgeon

The history of the modern movement consists of facts and myths and the myths can be as significant as any of the buildings. The most powerful myths are gathered around the most important buildings, the works of the great architects like Gropius, Le Corbusier, Erich Mendelsohn. But they who gather around buildings that have no architect's name, buildings that constitute a kind of monumental vernacular of the twentieth century. They are usually industrial structures, they are often known only from photographs, and they were also often in parts of the world that the modern architects of Europe had never visited. In the early years of the present century, the mythical vernacular monuments were, above all, the grain elevators of North America.


Grain Elevator On The Medway, Minneapolis

©Reyner Banham

The classic grain-elevators of America like these in the so-called Midway in Minneapolis are among the most imposing monuments put up by engineers in the twentieth century. They are part of the Modern Movement as purely functional structure in reinforced concrete, and they are also part of the International Style as exemplars of a particular way of assembling very simple geometric forms into larger compositions. And they are admired to this day as the supreme symbolic structures of American agricultural plenty.

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