Jonathan Meades

Construction Deconstructed

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

By

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.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter