Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan” as Want to Read:
Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  2,535 ratings  ·  98 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 ...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.
Popular Answered Questions
Tolu It is centred on the Architecture of NYC.. with primary focus on Manhattan .
A lot of it is about the Architecture and how it came to be.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.27  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,535 ratings  ·  98 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan
Jun 02, 2008 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.
Jul 09, 2009 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 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
I remember reading 'The Generic City' by Rem Koolhaas (pdf) when I was a masters student and greatly enjoying it. His analysis is entertainingly idiosyncratic and yet curiously illuminating. His selective account of New York’s architectural history is likewise fragmentary yet instructive. It contains a wealth of strange anecdotes, a forest of illustrations, and several underlying theses about the nature of New York City. Inevitably, the most memorable elements are weird details, such as Gaudi’s ...more
Clif Brittain
Nov 17, 2013 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,
Jun 29, 2011 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
Jun 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
this bastard wrote some truly perfect sentences and I'll never forgive him for it...he's dutch too!!!
Barrett Doherty
Mar 02, 2013 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
Andrzej Giełzak
An excellent read not only for readers interested in architecture. The book greatly conveys the feel of unrealistic, almost derilic process of development of "the greatest city on earth". Surprisingly light to read and engaging through many expamles, execellent graphics and interesitng facts.
Oct 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
I will have to give this another read. I truly tried my best to get through most of it, but I found the rhetoric and syntax to be obnoxiously tedious while lacking in cogency and force.
Mike Polizzi
Dec 28, 2015 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
Vanessa Wu
Feb 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Koolhaas is the king.
Mar 06, 2015 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.
Daniel Te
May 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Okay, I didn't read the whole entire book, but I came pretty close. This was a pretty long and dense book, but ultimately it is a fascinating approach to looking at architecture. Retroactively looking at the manifestation of the city as a product of ideals and technological advance is a rather fascinating viewpoint. The biggest critique I have about this approach is that it is very subjective. While Manhattan has the whole "culture of congestion" thing going on, there's nothing stopping someone ...more
Oct 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
A history lesson, dissertion in urbanism and thought experiment soaked in pretentious intellectualoid blabber. Should be called New York Delusion. Truly brilliant at times, it did make me marvel, but you really have to indulge the writer and power through the text to get to them.

It is, I guess, the point of the book, to sell this idea of congestion and manhattanism as an urbanism concept (and I am CERTAINLY not even close to being an expert on the matter), but for me, it mostly felt flat on its
Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'd been pushing the thought of reading this book for so long, since buying it in 2008. Rem definitely is a thinker. Most books on Architecture these days talk about some bullshit ideas, but described through flowery yet complex words. But, Delirious New York is none of those. He tells his reasons for writing the book, explains the retro active manifesto of New York by tracing the history of the place, mentions about the people involved during the time and then concludes with his own projects ...more
Daniel Dickson
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Delirious New York is fairly heavy-handed in shoving what were perhaps only loosely tied events, developments and histories narratively together. Nevertheless, I cannot help but feel convinced by its arguments. In delineating what it means to live in and create buildings for a metropolis (through an accumulation of dreamlands, business schemes, architectural postering, idiosyncratic visionaries, fantastic renderings, sociopolitical collisions and cultural congestion), Koolhaas created an ...more
Jul 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
I sometimes read books about architecture even though I don't know much about it. I learned possibly the most obvious thing in the world from this book. At the beginning of the 19th century, Manhattan's commissioners decided on the grid that we know today. The reason for the skyscrapers is that there's no where to go but up. Everyone in the world must have realized that before I did. Koolhaas tells all kinds of crazy true stories about the ideas people had to cram many people into a small space.
Kaden Beilman
Dec 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
the golden standard of creating your own narrative within architecture. like most of his other writings of this era, approaches the writing from a fictional standpoint which allows him to be a complete ass. the absolute best.
Cheah Ee Von
Jul 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
An interesting (and probably satirical) architectural allegory about the much-hated and banal skyscrapers of the Big Apple.
Phil Wilson
Feb 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Seminal written work about architecture and urbanism. Must read. I can't stress this enough.
Andrew Fairweather
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, ...more
Farah Abdelkarim
Jan 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
For an architect, or an architecture student, this book is a must. It helps with understanding urban design, in addition to understanding how architecture can effect human behavior and living.
Joni Baboci
Apr 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Swimming between brilliance and arrogance. Koolhaas sweeps over NYC. 3rd reread and it always feel like such a different read.
May 16, 2011 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 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
Julia Mihhailova
Feb 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Whether you are an architect or just want to expand your knowledge about one of the busiest cities in the world - this book definitely will appeal to you. Rich history of the most iconic city of the U.S. will leave anyone amused. Whenever you will go to NYC after reading this masterpiece you will look at the city from a different perspective.
Jake Donham
Oct 15, 2007 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 ...more
Apr 15, 2008 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
Apr 23, 2013 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.
Oct 02, 2010 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
« previous 1 3 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Towards a New Architecture
  • Thinking Architecture
  • Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture
  • Learning from Las Vegas: The Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form
  • The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses
  • Experiencing Architecture
  • The Image of the City
  • Atmospheres: Architectural Environments. Surrounding Objects
  • 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School
  • The Architecture of Happiness
  • The Architecture of the City
  • Yes is More: An Archicomic on Architectural Evolution
  • The Poetics of Space
  • The Death and Life of Great American Cities
  • Modern Architecture Since 1900
  • Cities for People
  • Modern Architecture: A Critical History
  • Architecture: Form, Space, & Order
See similar books…
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 ...more
“Like architecture, all paraphernalia of warfare are PC objects: the most rational possible instruments at the service of the most irrational possible pursuit.)” 0 likes
“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
More quotes…