25: Delirious New York

short review



Man's rush to the nth floor is a neck-and-neck race between plumbing and abstraction. Like an unwanted shadow, plumbing will always finish close second - Rem Koolhaas

If one is to think in the vein of Borges’s Garden of Forking Paths, even the most banal of decisions can lead to an opening of an infinite amount of alternative universes; in other words, individual decisions can influence events on a larger order of scale if one were to look at the ramifications playing in time a hundred or a thousand years later. The Manhattan Grid devised in 1811 by Simeon deWitt, Gouverneur Morris and John Rutherford might have been as a simple economic strategy at the time, the apparently innocuous gridization of a plot of land and the creation of 2, 028 blocks. That decision though, became an urban project that ultimately changed the history of a little island located on the East Coast of a young nation and that later would change the whole world with its own archetype of modernity and metropolitan values.

Permeating the mind of everyone that thinks of progress for centuries with those endless vertical structures, New York, hundred fifty years later sits as one of the most utopian realities that humankind has ever created, a true testing ground for Manhattanism or the culture of congestion, as Koolhaas would later theorize.

The Grid is, above all, a conceptual speculation. In spite of its apparent neutrality, it implies an intellectual program for the island: in its indifference to topography, to what exists, it claims the superiority of mental construction over reality - Rem Koolhaas

The land it divides, unoccupied; the population it describes, conjectural, the buildings it locates, phantoms; the activities it frames, nonexistent - Rem Koolhaas

Just as Koolhaas calls architecture part of Dali’s paranoid-critical method (1) based on the fact that architecture equals the ‘imposition on the world of structures it never asked for', his manifesto is equally unrequested. The word retroactive is inserted in the title to denote that it was written afterwards, retrospectively.
Rem Koolhaas is a gifted storyteller. On one hand a historian and methodical researcher, and on the other a creator of fantasies, a narrator that gives way to his imagination letting architectural myths thrive. As with any genius, he clearly sees more than what meets the eye; Delirious New York, A Retroactive manifesto was at the time of its publication in 1978 an instant classic, and with merit, Koolhaas combines compelling historical facts with cool prose and unique phraseology. Its storytelling is exciting and well-crafted allowing him to execute an incredibly complex task such as the analysis of the key projects and developments that contributed to the spatial resolution of the city of New York.

Diego Rivera- Frozen assets.jpg

Frozen Assets

Diego Rivera

1. Paranoid-critical activity is the fabrication of evidence for unprovable speculations and the subsequent grafting of this evidence on the world, so that a "false" fact takes its unlawful place among the "real"facts




ISBN 10:3034602596