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Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan
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Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan

4.25  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,726 Ratings  ·  70 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)
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Jul 09, 2009 Johnjbrantley rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 02, 2008 Alex rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: assholes
Recommended to Alex 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
Dec 30, 2013 Clif Brittain rated it really liked it
Shelves: architecture
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,
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
Mike Polizzi
Dec 28, 2015 Mike Polizzi rated it really liked it
Delirious New York is a book that gives shape and vision to the endless collisions, accidents, and collaborations that produced the signature architecture of Manhattan. As much a history of schemes and illusions as a lucid extrapolation of the pragmatism that bore out the aesthetics of the skyscraper within the limits of the grid, the zoning law of 1916 and the city's ever present culture of congestion, Koolhaas is dazzling as he reads the formal code of the city's past through its buildings and ...more
Apr 22, 2013 Jochen rated it liked it
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
Barrett Doherty
Mar 03, 2013 Barrett Doherty rated it it was amazing
Shelves: design
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
Andrew Fairweather
Sep 09, 2015 Andrew Fairweather rated it it was amazing
Rem Koolhaas' 'Delirious New York' is not merely a book on architecture, but an investigation into the psychology of what Koolhaas calls the 'culture of congestion' which served to influence 'Manhattanism'—a philosophy to world-building which ushered the golden age of the skyscraper. Two opposing forces are at play during the century of mass culture. There are the architects of 'the people', or, practical city planners who know what's good for the unwashed masses (Le Corbusier, Moses). Then, the ...more
Jul 20, 2015 loobeensky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Słuchaj, musisz ją przeczytać" - rzucał mi milion razy partner. "Doooobrze, kiedyś przeczytam".

Zaczynałam właśnie pracę nad recenzją Gropiusa i miałam z nim straszny problem. No bo niby demokratyczny, jednak tak jakby nie do końca, bo niby wszystko w porządku, ale coś mi chwilami nie grało i nie wiedziałam co, a ten stan doprowadzał mnie do pasji. "Zajrzyj do Koolhaasa, kto wie, może coś Ci wpadnie do głowy" - po raz n-ty zaryzykował Rafał.

Jak siadłam, tak przeczytałam. Ale czad. I już wiem, co
Jun 02, 2016 Peter rated it really liked it
Delirious prose! Wonderful little book on the bizarre, wacky and ridiculous ideas that took Coney Island and Manhattan during the pre-and early sky scraper era.
May 01, 2016 Tanyasam rated it it was amazing
Quel est le point commun entre Luna Park, Salvador Dali et les constructivistes russes ?
Tous ont participé, d’une façon ou une autre, à la formation du spectacle urbain de Manhattan. Des origines de la Nouvelle Amsterdam aux années 70, New York Délire nous conte l’épopée de la ville aux 2028 blocs. Dans sa quête du progrès sans fin, la petite île de Manhattan projette ses ambitions toujours plus haut dans le ciel.
Koolhaas théorise et donne un sens aux innombrables expérimentations, accidents et
May 08, 2016 Anna is currently reading it
Shelves: architecture
The one thing Koolhaas and Obama has in common is that they had lived in Jakarta, Indonesia. You have to be in a place so arbitrary and so badly-planned that it tickles your brain to analyze what is wrong and motivate to synthesize formulas to adjust the environment. At least they are both working in 'same' area of mastermind-ing.

He was a journalist before started studying in AA London at 24, making this book an eloquent point of view supported by solid historical reference. In one line he wrot
Irreverently witty and thought provoking, Rem Koolhaas's manifesto on Manhattanism is still a must read for architects, planners, and perhaps even landscape architects like myself. Statements like "Manhattan is an accumulation of possible disasters that never happen" require an extra close reading and parts of the text were too abstract and nuanced for me to fully appreciate. However, much of the text is accessible and provides a powerful understanding of the ideas that fueled the growth of Manh ...more
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
Jul 31, 2011 Matthew rated it really liked it
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
Mar 27, 2007 Sam rated it really liked it
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
Nov 22, 2007 Jake rated it liked it
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
Yifei Men
Jan 19, 2015 Yifei Men rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A well-designed book as it is a well-written one. Koolhaas has a natural flow to his writing -- evocative, sensuous, revealing that draws one in. The premise of the book is simple: to provide a retroactive manifesto to the overrun city of Manhattan, but the book is not only a manifesto, but a narrative that gives a personality in addition to the history of the Manhattan skyline.
Oct 27, 2014 Nadia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
Ok, I didn't read the whole book.
Don't get me wrong, is a good book, but it wasn't was I was looking for, so I just read the chapters that I found interesting.

I guess I would go back to this if I need to do an essay about Manhattan, it has a lot of info about the development of the city and in some chapters focuses on specific buildings.
Christianne Hedtke
May 31, 2016 Christianne Hedtke rated it liked it
This is the first book I've ever read on architecture so it was definitely a good foundation for all other discussions on architecture, even if it was incredibly dense and academic.
Feb 27, 2014 Valentin rated it it was amazing
Amazingly interesting: read it in just two sittings. Surreal, phantasmagoric, brilliant, inspiring. No idea how true it is. No architectural background required.
Honza Marcinek
May 29, 2016 Honza Marcinek rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rem Koolhaas patří mezi nejuznávanější architekty a je považován za současného Picassa architektury. Ale svou kariéru začal jako teoretik, kdy napsal tuto knihu, která je dodnes jednou ze základních příruček oboru. Je v ní krásné vyznání z obdivu k nekontrolovanému rozrůstání Manhattanu. A to přitom nesnáší mrakodrapy. Každopádně disharmonie protichůdných elementů se stala později jedním z poznávacích znamení jeho staveb. Já město New York miluji a díky této knize jsem mohl město poznat mnohem d ...more
Jul 29, 2009 Kathleen rated it liked it
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
Daria Huxley
Jul 22, 2016 Daria Huxley rated it liked it
Great read on architecture and its historical aspects.
Hans Schmidt
Jul 11, 2016 Hans Schmidt rated it it was amazing
Loved it.
Apr 23, 2013 Maxim rated it really liked it
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.
Feb 24, 2011 Adastra rated it really liked it
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
Josh Luft
Sep 30, 2013 Josh Luft rated it really liked it
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.
Apr 09, 2009 Kevin rated it it was amazing
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.
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
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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
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“In a laughing mirror-image of the seriousness with which the rest of the world is obsessed with Progress, Coney Island attacks the problem of Pleasure, often with the same technological means.” 0 likes
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