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.

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