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Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan Paperback – December 1, 1997
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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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Top Customer Reviews
The book itself then and its' structure; it starts off with a chapter on Coney Island, as being the laboratory for Manhattan; if one can make it through this first chapter, one is well positioned for the next chapters dealing with Manhattan's development, until the last one, where the author shifts gears suddenly, to get into the heads of two European celebrities of the Art & Architecture community, and basically finishes off the 'Manhattanism' process/period described in the previous chapters, thru the tales and eyes of these two. In terms of reading, a somewhat discontinuous experience, and asking the reader (once more), to find his/her bearing on a new 'platform' of thought(s) / thinking, this time centered around a newly introduced idea of a so-called 'Paranoia-Critical-Method', and the aspects of Paranoia itself. It is not quite clear why this shift is needed in view of the preceding chapters and history, and does not contribute to its core story, imho.
The book is an intellectual and theoretical approach to Planning and Architectural history, where an objectivity has been maintained most of the time, albeit one cannot miss the at times sarcastic/sceptical/comical tones, when describing rather bizarre moments and ideas in the history of Manhattan. Almost every paragraph, headed by a short keyword of its content/subject, is concluded with a transcendental thought, a 'one-liner' providing a philosophical condensation of the evolving step in the process, which in themselves are the little pearls the writer adds on a string (of the story-line).
One of the main values of the approach is that it puts Architecture, Planning and Design in an historical context that's including cultural, socio- and economic forces, as much, and most of the time, more than the Architecture, Planning and Design itself. What it tries to convey is a sense of processes beyond any one's control, where the Architect, Engineer and Designer are merely the ones providing the means to the forces that are occurring and shaping the processes. Their 'ideas' appear as makeshift, when seen against a 'bigger picture' background, their particular 'Architectural' approach or style more or less irrelevant.
The book does include at the end, design proposals for Manhattan by the author / Architect around the time of writing / conception of the book (mid-seventies), that are presented as visual illustrations of the principles discovered and described in the book. However, partly due to the scale of the graphics included (small singular conceptual 3D images) and in part due to a listing of programmatic characteristics that one has been inundated with already a lot in the book, it doesn't really add to the story-line, imho. It seems that what one would expect, based on knowing what we know now in regards to the author and his career, that is a summarizing and a valuation of the principles in terms of how they would be made to guide one in projects for the future, is a missing stepping stone.
As such, the shown projects in a way act more as a 'smoke-screen' than an unveiling of a future 'manifesto' (or set of rules), since it is not clear what is 'different' than what one has come to see before, nor what value, rejection or acceptance, is placed upon it. The Architect did not come out and valuate what the author has distilled. Perhaps that had not happened to the point of conclusion yet, but instead what is presented seems to represent a phase of mesmerizing and fascination with the subject. As such, the Architect and the subsequent work of the office remains a subject of study for me. One has to start somewhere, and this is most likely an obligatory starting point.
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.