Book Review: Guide to Ecstacity

Guide to Ecstacity by Nigel Coates, published by Princeton Architectural Press, 2003. Hardcover, 454 pages. (Amazon)

Ecstacity is a fictional city pieced together from sections of Tokyo, Cairo, London, New York, Rome, Mumbai, and Rio de Janeiro, and British architect Nigel Coates' metaphor for his beliefs on architecture and the urban condition for the 21st century. The book, a guide to this multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, all-embracing city, is described to the reader through six chapters: Tuning In, Locking On, Undressing, Letting Go, Cranking Up, Flipping Out. While the author believes the book does not need to be read in order cover to cover, these chapters more accurately describe the linear nature of the book, as one takes a voyage of discovery through the city. Graphically the book is as eclectic as the city it describes, text layered upon images layered upon images, with the ever-common dictionary of terms on almost every page (in a twist the terms are listed from Z-A). Coates' projects are sprinkled throughout the book, but Ecstacity does not read as a monograph, more as a theory of cities. What's important in Coates' book is not understanding Ecstacity as a place but as a set of ideas that embrace change, diversity, tolerance, complexity, experience and the hybridization of city spaces and events.