Jonathan Meades

Construction Deconstructed

Four Walls and a Roof: The Complex Nature of a Simple Profession


Harvard University Press 513pp £27.95 order from our bookshop

Rem Koolhaas’s provocative Delirious New York, published in 1978, begins with a paean to Luna Park on Coney Island, ‘a new technology of the fantastic’ which, he speculates, was the model for modern Manhattan. Thirty-nine years on, Reinier de Graaf neatly ends his equally provocative Four Walls and a Roof with a chapter about the ever-changing architectural fate of the Rockaway peninsula, a mile or so southeast of Coney Island across an inlet of Lower New York Bay. Part of it was once a plotlands development known as the Irish Riviera. It has been subjected to social housing experiments, gated ‘communities’ and the attentions of hipster surfers. This edgeland of beached whales has been a sort of testing ground for fashionable theories metamorphosed into political machinations. The book abounds in similar cases.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Here's reviewing Rachel Kushner's novel about a woman caught in the injustice of the US prison system,… ,
    • 'Hart sets out to unsettle, startle and disturb. In this strange, disconcerting, radical version of a strange, disc… ,
    • Here is @MannJessica's June crime fiction round-up, discussing books by Georges Simenon, Jack Grimwood,… ,
    • John Stubbs reviews Stephen Greenblatt's latest, 'Tyrant: Shakespeare on Power' ,
    • RT : What happened when US military strategist Herman Kahn - one of Kubrick’s three models for Dr Strangelove - took LSD… ,
    • 'Pollan has no doubt that the use of psychedelics could have a powerfully beneficial effect on a range of condition… ,
    • A memoir about an Untouchable family and the 'formation of modern India': 'Ants among Elephants' by @gidla_sujatha… ,