‘Junkspace’ by Rem Koolhaas

When I first attempted this list it was all weird tales and ghost stories. Those are generally (almost exclusively) the short stories I enjoy. It was weird, but also weirdly pedestrian, a lot of Lovecraft and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. So I thought, with a chuckle, “I should put ‘Junkspace’ on here.” In ‘Junkspace’, the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas warns about the ubiquitous, homogenous, air-conditioned global environment of airports, shopping malls, convention centres and hotels, an edgeless “fuzzy empire” of “canned euphoria”. But his maddened, feverish tone is straight from Edgar Allan Poe or Colonel Kurtz. It has precisely the structure and prose style of a weird tale, in which a rational man glimpses something unspeakable and returns, his grasp on sanity loosened, to report to us. I’ve recommended it to other writers in the past, and they’ve come back from it wide-eyed. Yeah, I thought, ‘Junkspace’ definitely belongs on the list. And then I thought, what if the whole list was ‘Junkspace’?

In Junkspace with Running Room, Notting Hill Editions, 2013, by Rem Koolhaas and Hal Foster, available here

‘The Lives of a Block: The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and the Empire State Building’ by Rem Koolhaas

Koolhaas again. No regrets. Delirious New York is a book that almost all architects have on their shelves but few outside architecture have heard of, let alone read. That’s a shame. It’s an exercise in backplotting the “accidental genius” of the greatest American city. If you wanted to end up with New York, what rules would you apply, what conditions would you create? But its section vary widely, and in Lives of a Block, Koolhaas unpacks the meaning of hotels. “A Hotel,” he writes, “is a plot” – not a plot in the sense of a site, or a block, but a narrative, a human drama, “a cybernetic universe with its own laws generating random but fortuitous collisions between human beings who would never have met elsewhere.”

In Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan, 1994, Monacelli