BOOKS: PICK OF THE WEEK

The new series of Sounding the Century lectures at London's South Bank Centre kicks off on Tuesday with a talk by Dutch architect, Rem Koolhaas. Koolhaas is an influential maverick, who emerged from the Architectual Association in the 1970s along with other huge, creative talents like Zaha Hadid, who designed the ill-fated Cardiff Opera House, and Daniel Liebeskind, responsible for the new spiral building at the V&A.

Koolhaas's practice, the Rotterdam-based Office for Metropolitan Architecture, (OMA), has worked extensively on the Pearl River Delta, in southern China, which has experienced some of the most rapid and massive urban growth ever seen, as well as master-planning Euralille: a megalopolic, commercial station-centred complex near Lille.

According to Paul Finch, editor of the Architects' Journal, who's chairing the lecture, Koolhaas is special because he's both theorist and practitioner. "He's not unique in this respect," says Finch, "but there aren't many figures on the international stage who feel equally at home lecturing in China, the US and London, and who've designed a lot of buildings and written a great deal." And then there's Koolhaas's theories.

"He takes subjects that haven't been thought about in a particular way before. For example: bigness. He sees the development of cities as being about size and scale. Not architecture or civil engineering. This affects how you think about the sort of buildings you should be making. If you need to build 20 million square feet of offices in two years, do the finer points of architectural history have any bearing, or relevance, whatsoever? Essentially, he explores how you theorise what you're doing when you add tiny pieces to giant cities, which have lives of their own, beyond the control of architects."

From big cities to small people... The Bracknell Book Festival starts on Thursday and features all sorts of children's writers, including Dennis Bond, Leon Rosselson and Pat Hutchins doing a variety of imaginative things for all age groups.

Rem Koolhaas, `Sounding the Century', Queen Elizabeth Hall, South Bank Centre, London SE1 (0171-960 4242) Tue, 7.30pm, pounds 8 (concs pounds 5).

Bracknell Book Festival, Southall Park Arts Centre, Bracknell (01344 484123) Thurs to 5 May, free to pounds 10.

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