on 24 February 1998
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.
on 1 August 2003
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.
Considering just how miserable he seems to be these days, this book by architect Rem Koolhaas is an absolute delight. It is the perfect distillation of quirky research, fantastic images and barely credible stories. Koolhaas seeks to create a retrospective manifesto for the iconic city of our era, New York. He creates and illustrates theories, that then run through the book like a thread. At the end when the book slips into fantasy, it is scarcely less believable than what has gone before.
This is a cracking read. I am marking down slightly to four, as there is a lot of arty farty theoretical stuff that some people will love, but is bound to turn off some potential readers.
The Kindle version is well put together, though the effect of the illustrations is a little lost, so you might be tempted to buy a hard copy to supplement the Kindle version. One to read and read again.