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Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan [Paperback]

Rem Koolhaas
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
RRP: 28.00
Price: 21.60 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 Dec 1994
Since its original publication in 1978, Delirious New York has attained mythic status. Back in print in a newly designed edition, this influential cultural, architectural, and social history of New York is even more popular, selling out its first printing on publication. Rem Koolhaas's celebration and analysis of New York depicts the city as a metaphor for the incredible variety of human behavior. At the end of the nineteenth century, population, information, and technology explosions made Manhattan a laboratory for the invention and testing of a metropolitan lifestyle -- "the culture of congestion" -- and its architecture.

"Manhattan," he 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)." Koolhaas interprets and reinterprets the dynamic relationship between architecture and culture in a number of telling episodes of New York's history, including the imposition of the Manhattan grid, the creation of Coney Island, and the development of the skyscraper. Delirious New York is also packed with intriguing and fun facts and illustrated with witty watercolors and quirky archival drawings, photographs, postcards, and maps. The spirit of this visionary investigation of Manhattan equals the energy of the city itself.

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Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan + Learning from Las Vegas: The Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form + Collage City
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Monacelli Press; New Ed edition (1 Dec 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1885254008
  • ISBN-13: 978-1885254009
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 18.4 x 1.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 27,807 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling History of Manhattan 24 Feb 1998
By A Customer
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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun and original 1 Aug 2003
Format:Paperback
Rem Koolhas is surely one of the funniest architectural commentators alive and this highly readable book does a great job of explaining (a) Manhattan for us. Skipping across a series of repressions (high culture lambasts the glee of fantastic technology on coney island only to adopt and raze its origins to flat grasslands) and fantasies (architects insistance on congestion increasing road widenings as pragmatic moves to decongestion disguises venetian fantasies of archipelagic towerstates) the author paints a vivid picture of the metropolis, plausible.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mr. P 1 July 2010
By Mr. P
Format:Paperback
Excellent theory about New York. Koolhaas really translates the special feeling of Manhattan! Great buy for theory in architecture!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a fine book 31 Dec 2013
By lulu
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've rated it only 4 starts because I was slightly disappointed with the size and the soft cover. I had hoped for a more robust look /feel and better sized book. Probably I didn't read the small print
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  20 reviews
42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mandatory Reading 6 Mar 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
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!
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling History of Manhattan 24 Feb 1998
By kent@gateway.net.au - Published on Amazon.com
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.
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great starting point. 18 Nov 2000
By Witold Riedel - Published on Amazon.com
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.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant despite some annoyances 30 April 2008
By Sub-Kontinental - Published on Amazon.com
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.

Ultimately, "Delirious" proves itself to be a very intelligent synopsis---just as delirious and congested the themes Mr. Koolhaas puts forth. For the most part, it's a pleasure to read, and it also reflects the exhaustive research on Mr. Koolhaas's end. Much like Mr. Koolhaas's buildings, "Delirious" is on the cusp of being as grand as it intends to be.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the culture of congestion 23 Dec 2002
By S. Nardi - Published on Amazon.com
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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