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Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan Paperback – December 1, 1997

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In this fanciful volume, Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, founder of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (O.M.A.), both analyzes and celebrates New York City. By suggesting the city as the site for an infinite variety of human activities and events--both real and imagined--the essence of the metropolitan lifestyle, its "culture of congestion" and its architecture are revealed in a brilliant new light. "Manhattan," Koolhaas writes, "is the 20th century's Rosetta stone . . . occupied by architectural mutations (Central Park, the Skyscraper), utopian fragments (Rockefeller Center, the U.N. Building), and irrational phenomena (Radio City Music Hall)." Filled with fascinating facts, as well as photographs, postcards, maps, watercolors, and drawings, the vibrancy of Koolhaas's poignant exploration of Gotham equals the heady, frenetic energy of the city itself. Anyone who loves New York will want to own this book.

From Library Journal

"Koolhaas's retroactive manifesto explains Manhattan's architecture as the physical embodiment of a 'culture of congestion,' " said LJ's reviewer of this mixture of architectural theory and social commentary (LJ 3/15/79).
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: The Monacelli Press (December 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1885254008
  • ISBN-13: 978-1885254009
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 0.9 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,679 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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46 of 49 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
I originally read the first edition of this book when it came out in the 70s. It completely transformed (or formed) my thinking about the city, the processes by which a city develops and grows, and the innate playfulness of the city as a form. Despite its deceptive simplicity, I believe that this book will emerge as one of the essential texts of the twentieth century on urban design. Read it!
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By kent@gateway.net.au on February 23, 1998
Format: Paperback
A romp through New York's sometimes jaded history with a view to uncover the roots of the modern metropolis and the singular element devised by architects to inspire (amuse?) the masses - the Skyscraper. The book looks at Coney Island as the testing ground of the Skyscaper, Manhatten as further exploration of the Skyscaper which is trialed in the name of symbols of a propserous future, economic rationale and pushing the envelope to its limits and finishes with Office of Metropolitian Architecture's own experimental projects in New York. A very compelling history of a complex city.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Sub-Kontinental on April 30, 2008
Format: Paperback
While "Delirious" has its fair share of archispeak, Mr. Koolhaas pulls off an intelligent, fun and thought-provoking take on the early 20th century building culture of New York.

One of the quirkier (and frankly, awesome/bravadoish) aspects of "Delirious" is Mr. Koolhaas's analysis of Coney Island: an "incubator for Manhattan's incipient themes." As a reader, one initially questions the inclusion of such a trashy place in such a lofty manifesto. However, as the chapter progresses, you start to see Mr. Koolhaas's iconoclastic brilliance. He pays an amazing homage to "the laboratory" that was Coney Island, illuminating the vital role it played in the building philosophies that would emerge later in Manhattan.

Scattered throughout "Delirious," also, are compelling supporting images that Mr. Koolhaas clearly spent a lot of time digging up. In fact, flipping through the book for the images alone makes for a near-equivalent, and fun, learning experience.

However, unlike his tasteful use of images, Mr. Koolhaaas's flamboyant use of scholarly English makes his writing difficult to digest at times:

"It is probably inevitable that a doctrine based on the continual simulation of pragmatism, on a self-imposed amnesia that allows the continuous reenactment of the same subconscious themes in ever new reincarnations and on inarticulateness systematically cultivated in order to operate more effectively..."

Given Mr. Koolhaas's journalism background (and assumed mastery of writing), I suspect he made the conscious decision to remain somewhat inaccessible to preserve his "lofty" image. While such a decision may be understandable, his brilliance as a writer often gets overshadowed by the sheer irritation of trying to understand him.
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30 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Witold Riedel on November 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
An easily digestible read filled with delicious facts about the big apple. This book can change the way one sees New York forever. Be it from a street level, or from an intellectual level. "Delirious New York" helps to rediscover Manhattan, and it helps to discover the idea of Manhattan in places far away from "The City".
This publication is a perfect starting point for any exploration into the past or the future of urbanism, architecture, and of course New York City and the people who helped to shape this ever growing marvel.
A must read, and a perfect gift for anyone who is even remotely touched by New York.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By S. Nardi on December 23, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is by far Koolhaas's most accessible work, as it is rooted so clearly in detail from the city's past. Further, the book is simply brilliant. His take on urban history is to Jane Jacobs what Socrates is to common sense. New York is a special case of modernism that sprang from a special constellation of poltiical and technological forces that collectively create a cultural "big-bang" at the turn of the century. Read it. Blow your mind.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By T. Peterson on April 28, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Here's an undergraduate architecture student's perspective: I really enjoyed this book! It's not difficult to get into but be prepared to venture into some pretty fantastical theories about New York. I couldn't help but think that some of the explanations and narrative were a bit forced to fit into some very memorable lines and titles. Just go with it though and you'll be glad you did; it's a captivating interpretation of New York that is certainly at least as valuable as whatever you'll find in a history book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Edoardo Angeloni on February 11, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Koolhas doesn't need to the presentation. He is a genius of the American and global architecture. THe importance of this book is related to consider the history of the development of Manhattan.
What is the function of the skyscraper? During the economic boom of Reagan cycle, it is the symbol of the financial subcess, next the last crisis every skyscraper must give us a proper value. That is true, but it can mean a return to the original sense of the City, and to an architectural function of the open spaces.
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Format: Paperback
My professor at Pratt Institute, Fred Levrat told me that before I head off to do my Master's in architecture, that I should read Delirious New York. At first I blew off his advice, but I felt I needed to understand what this book was about, so I got it. It was a fairly easy read, and contains Koolhaas's very interesting manifesto of NYC. I am definitely convinced by Koolhaas's manifesto, rather, a convincing argument, sound thesis, and I loved the book. I learned from reading this book that an architect in order to sell their idea must always have a convincing thesis and argument, just like Koolhaas constructed his argument about what Manhattan was and is, and how it came to be what we know of Manhattan today. For those interested in achieving a Master's degree in Architecture, especially at any of the Ivy Leagues, Delirious NY should be read before you enter the graduate program.
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