Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan

4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  1,098 ratings  ·  58 reviews
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 v...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published December 1st 1997 by The Monacelli Press (first published 1978)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Delirious New York, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Delirious New York

The Poetics of Space by Gaston BachelardTowards a New Architecture by Le CorbusierDelirious New York by Rem KoolhaasYes is More by Bjarke Ingels GroupThe Image of the City by Kevin Lynch
An Architect's Library
3rd out of 34 books — 10 voters
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. SalingerThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldA Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty  SmithBreakfast at Tiffany's by Truman CapoteExtremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Tales of New York City
242nd out of 819 books — 747 voters


More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,637)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Johnjbrantley
The main thing I learned from this book is that architects have incredible freedom in establishing their own narratives. It helps when it is done masterfully, as is the case here.

Seemingly unrelated and sometimes arbitrary elements intermingle to produce an intense and inimitable environment...the history of urban life in Manhattan becomes spectacle as seen through the critical eye of the author. Fueled by Koolhaas' precise and colorful verbal descriptions, the book makes good use of historical...more
Adb
Jun 02, 2008 Adb rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: assholes
Recommended to Adb by: a fucking architect
pure unadulterated architectural self-aggrandizement. completely pretentious crap. some interesting material, but you have to wade through every other sentence of bullshit metaphysical declarations that this guy just pulls out of his ass.
Clif Brittain
This was a wonderful book. Full of great ideas, telling wonderful stories, giving great descriptions. But what was it about? After I read it a dozen more times, I might be able to tell you.

Some clues:

It is about Manhattanism. Manhattanism was defined concisely once within the book, but I can't find it again. Basically it is a culture of congestion, motivated by greed, which occasionally & accidentally produces wonderful architecture.

Two constrictions define Manhattan. The grid map of 1811,...more
Jochen
Ziemlich verquast geschriebene Geschichte des "Manhattanismus", ein Architekt, der beim Schreiben verrätseln will. Großartiges Bildmaterial. Z.B. 1851 der dampfangetriebene Aufzug von Elisha Otis, mit der eigentlichen Attraktion, der neuartigen Fallbremse. Die Dreamland-Vergnügungsparkwelten in Coney Island mit Earthquake-Fläche, Liliputaner-Stadt mit eigener Miniatur-Feuerwehr, Incubator-Building für die Frühgeburten aus dem Großraum New York. Die heroische Wolkenkratzer-Epoche. Man muß nicht m...more
Andrew
Jul 04, 2011 Andrew added it
Shelves: urbanism
Koolhaas has great material. New York is WEIRD. And he paints a wonderful picture of it at various historical and spatial stages.

I take issue with his overarching theory. Much like what I refer to as the "things stoners thinking of when watching Wallace and Gromit" school of literary criticism (Baudrillard, Virilio), he prefers wacky style to cogent argument.

A good example of his school can be found in this conclusion I came to while stoned and watching Wallace and Gromit...

"Really, the wrong tr...more
Barrett Doherty
Koolhaas, the most influential voice in contemporary architecture, explicated his theory of Manhattanism in "Delirious NY" in 1979. 30 years on, it still stands as a fascinating insight into the culture and architecture that make NY one of the great cities of the world. A very engaging quick read that illuminates NY's signature achievement, the "culture of congestion". Notable chapters include Coney Island: the technology of the fantastic, The Lives of a Block, the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and the...more
Vriginia
Non so da dove iniziare. L'ho appena finito e vivo simultaneamente un momento di stasi e un momento di frenesia nel voler dire qualcosa al riguardo.
Wow. No, forse così non va bene.
Ok, ci sono. La mia prima ammirazione va per quello che fa. Guardare in generale, cogliere elementi piccoli, elementi ingombranti e trovare fili conduttori, spiegazioni, movimenti interni.
Questa è una cosa che mi ha fatto sempre impazzire, sarà perchè nel mio piccolo ho questa tendenza.
La seconda ammirazione va alla n...more
Matthew
Rem Koolhaas is an architect and writer whose style of glossy, heavily-illustrated art and architecture books have become the norm since their release in the 1970s. His most recent architectural work is the finally completed CCTV Tower in China, for which he has provided a long and detailed explanation on how it is the pinnacle of the theories he originally proposed in this book.
Published in 1978, Koolhaas proposed that the street grid system of Manhattan, as well as what he called the "Culture...more
Sam
Mar 27, 2007 Sam rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: NYC Junkies who already have the traditional version
It's got five-star moments, but Rem's not a writer. Sure, there are new, mind-expanding ideas, and new terms to define, but you can't trick me into thinking unclear writing is just "beyond me." It's just unclear writing.

But bushwhack through this babble and you catch fleeting vistas of lucid thought about the unique architecture of NYC.

Rem has put his mind to understanding both the material and psychological engines of architecture as one complex.

I was in the habit of thinking of the progressio...more
Jake
Interesting historical tidbits about the development of New York (including some plans that were never built), wrapped up in a "retroactive manifesto" of Manhattanism, which, as these things go, is fairly readable, but makes much of small observations, like: the street grid calls attention to the finitude of the island, a skyscraper is a piece of territory repeated many times ("the Theorem"), a skyscraper breaks the traditional connection between exterior appearance and interior use ("the Loboto...more
Valentin
Amazingly interesting: read it in just two sittings. Surreal, phantasmagoric, brilliant, inspiring. No idea how true it is. No architectural background required.
Kathleen
Strange. Thought-provoking. Curious. Funny. Informative. And sometimes annoying.

I am glad that I finally read it (and finally finished it), but I don't think it lived up to the hype. Don't get me wrong - parts were Very interesting and entertaining, but as a whole I didn't feel that way. I do think it hurt my opinion that this book took me soo long to finish. Had I read it in the span of a few weeks (instead of many, many months) it would probably have made more sense to me and gotten another s...more
Maxim
The book focuses on development of several landmark buildings on Manhattan, provides useful insights on "unplanned" process of development of NYC. Describes quite vividly key characters involved in the planning and construction of Rockefeller center, Empire State Building, Waldorf-Astoria.

I picked up this book since it was described as an "unurbanist manifesto", sadly I found that book's scope is much smaller, as it does not touch any city planning issues, such as transportation, zoning, etc.
Adastra
This is a non-fiction book focusing on the history of New York's architecture, explaining how this city architectually exploded into what it is now. It's from the 70's so it's not exactly up to date, and the writing style lives up to it's "delirious" title sometimes.

Not every chapter is captivating, but altogether it's a very interesting history lesson on New York. I was especially surprised by the rich history of Coney Island, considering the sad (but somehow beautiful) little beach it is nowa...more
Josh Luft
A really fascinating look at New York's architectural history--and how it's effected/formed the city's culture. Koolhaas discusses how things like the imposition of the grid, the 1916 Zoning Resolution, and a desire for a man-made utopia helped to create a "culture of congestion." He focuses on the development of Coney Island, skyscrapers, Rockefeller Center, and Radio City Music Hall to make his retroactive--and quite solid--case.
Kevin
first anthropology book about a city. the trick was simple, acquire a collection of tourist postcards, identify previous crossroads/fantasy destinations, analyze the 1)deformity in the postcard's view, the condensation, 2)analyze the connections between scales, materialism, pleasure, classes. link in loose narrative these narratives of building. result: masterpiece.
Michelle
This was the May book cub book 2009. It was very interesting and so different from anything that we have ever read. I really enjoyed learning about how New York was constructed and how New York came to be. I would recommend it to anyone, but you have to recognize that it was much more of a text book than a novel about New York
dq
Aug 11, 2007 dq rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: new yorkers
coney island as laboratory for new york architectural innovation. what ny would have looked like if corbusier had his way. the genius of rockefeller center. cold hard man love of the skyscraper age. this is an essential book for anyone who loves the city. equal parts cultural/social history, urban studies, and architecture.
Archer
Jul 23, 2014 Archer rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Architects, Historians, the Easily Fascinated, Fans of Cabinet magazine, etc.
The only book by Rem I have read. It was great, with a abundance of fascinating and personal insight. Anecdotes, Analogies, Allegory, it's All there. A good sense of wonder. A researched informative graph. A picture book. SERIOUSLY FOLKS THIS BOOKS GOT IT ALL. Read it in the large format if you can find it or afford it.
Ian
"If Manhattan is an archipelago of Paranoid-Critical islands insulated by the neutralizing lagoon of the Grid, then to spill their hidden contents into the objective space of the street is a subversive action [...] Manhattanism acts in self-defense to restore the integrity of it formula [...]" (273).
jw
A fun and thoughtful love letter to the greatest city in the world, Rem Koolhaus not only takes us through an architectural history of nyc (the extensive coverage of coney island is delightful) -- he also proposes some fanciful projects to the city. That Rem is one kool nutjob.
Sean Billy
Sep 14, 2008 Sean Billy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Architects and Urban planners
Living in nyc, this introduced a really interesting history of the city. The ideas where clear and definitely made me think more critically of how the city, its history, and the influence of the grid has shaped its growth/past/future. Good solid work Rem.
Sascha
Sep 05, 2007 Sascha rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: new yorkers
awesome. the first chapter alone is mind-blowing...you probably have no idea how crazy coney island was before 1914. steamers carrying people from manhattan. midget towns. perpetually burning buildings. premature baby incubators. all part of the fun...
Casey
Dec 31, 2009 Casey added it
I am actually reading it, but it's not really easy to read. I've read it in bits and pieces and hope to focus a bit more around the holidays. Nevertheless, it will take a while. I do find it interesting.
... not sure who I'd recommend it to though......
Doug
Certainly delirious, certainly a manifesto. A bit too breathless and over-eager for history, but spot on for entertainment and legend-making.

I loved the coney island chapter. Now I want to go to coney at 4 am and run the steeplechase.
Brandon
i mean it's good for a while, after you get over the stupidity of manhattan being a "cliotris."

like a lot of rem's earlier efforts, it's good underneath but the stuff on top--jesus, either ignore it or don't bother trying to read it.
Nick
Amazing history of New York through an architect's lens. The history of Coney Island and Rockefeller Center are truly fascinating and Koolhaas' invigorating and passionate way of writing about these topics really pull you in.
Rory Hyde
Incredible book. Insights on every page. A brilliant structure. Peculiar use of language. A compelling narrative. The city seems to swallow its creators with its own logic and drive. Does it get any better than this?
Trinity School Summer Reading
A celebration of what the author, the renowned Dutch architect, calls the city’s “Culture of Congestion,” a metaphor for technological advancement and the variety of human behavior found in an urban setting.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 87 88 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture
  • Towards a New Architecture
  • The Architecture of the City
  • Yes is More: An Archicomic on Architectural Evolution
  • The Image of the City
  • Thinking Architecture
  • Modern Architecture: A Critical History (World of Art)
  • The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses
  • Modern Architecture Since 1900
  • The Seven Lamps of Architecture
  • Experiencing Architecture
  • Space, Time and Architecture: The Growth of a New Tradition
  • The Ten Books on Architecture
  • The Four Books of Architecture
  • Design Like You Give a Damn: Architectural Responses to Humanitarian Crises
  • The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces
  • Architecture Without Architects: A Short Introduction to Non-Pedigreed Architecture
  • Life Between Buildings: Using Public Space
2274
Remmert Lucas Koolhaas (born 17 November 1944) is a Dutch architect, architectural theorist, urbanist and "Professor in Practice of Architecture and Urban Design" at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University, USA. Koolhaas studied at the Netherlands Film and Television Academy in Amsterdam, at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London and at Cornell University in Ith...more
More about Rem Koolhaas...
S, M, L, XL (Evergreen) Content Mutations Project Japan. Metabolism Talks... Oma/Rem Koolhaas, 1987 1998

Share This Book