Obit> Alex Moulton, 1920-2012

International
Friday, December 21, 2012
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Reyner Banham rides one of Moulton's bikes.

Reyner Banham rides one of Moulton’s bikes.

Alex Moulton, 92, died on December 9th at his home in Bath, England. His New York Times obituary on December 20th didn’t mention that he designed an object loved by the entire architecture profession. Moulton an automotive engineer and entrepreneur designed, built, and manufactured the Moulton foldable, collapsable mini bicycle. The bicycle was made famous-at least to architect’s by Reyner Banham who commuted daily on his Moulton F-frame and famously used a photographed on his mini for his books dust jacket.

The prototype for Moulton was designed and built in 1959 and according to the Times, “immediately took hold in 1960s Britain, where, because of the their quirkiness and convenience,” they became seen as a fashionable minibike, as the Moulton company says on its website “to go with mini skirts and mini cars.” Just the thing for an architecture historian to fold up in their Bedford square office. The bicycle, the Times wrote, “was known was for its small 16 inch wheels, high pressure tires, front and rear rubber suspension system and a step through frame. But Banham who wrote a 1960 article on the bicycle “A Grid on Two Farthings” more brilliantly described its compelling design arguing against the notion “that the centuries have given a final shape, perfect beyond improvement, to certain basic tools such as the hammer and the oar, that generations of trial and error have produced working forms almost indistinguishable from platonic absolutes” including the diamond frame bicycle which had presumably “already achieved its ultimate norm or form around 1900.” Since the Moulton, Banham writes, “bicycle thinking can never be the same again, and there can be no more nonsense about permanent and definitive forms, for even the Moulton is capable of improvement.”

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