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BOOK

REVIEW

KM3: Excursions on Density By MVRDV. Actar, 2005.1415pp. £48

KM3 is MVRDV's new volume on what it calls the 3D city.

Originally conceived as a series of mini-books, it has been published as a single 'entity' - some 7cm thick.

Its underlying premise is that in times of globalisation the unit of architectural scale needs updating from the cubic metre to the cubic kilometre (hence KM3). Each chapter (or mini-book) deals with observations, hypotheses and speculations based on this premise. In doing so, the book also forms a framework for presenting the recent theoretical and built work of MVRDV.

Although the book is largely pictorial, each section begins with a short passage of text which presents its content, or thesis. For some reason these are presented in a 20-point Helvetica font which appears to shout off the page. The arguments presented in this myopia-friendly format are not made any more persuasive by the repeated use of rhetorical questions, giving the text something of the feel of political soapbox oratory.

Within the book there are some intriguing images, some good statistics and architectural work of real merit. But such faint praise should not obscure the fact that anyone who has concerns about measuring architecture by the cubic kilometre may have limited sympathy for this tome.

More than 200 pages are devoted to presenting a proposal for a future city, which takes the form of a 5 x 5 x 5km cube, described in terrifying detail. The proposition that the earth is populated with these cities is put forward without any hint of the irony that one might expect from architects whose education roughly coincided with the arrival of the Borg in Star Trek.

As a reviewer I'm obliged to offer a comprehensible account in 500 words of what the reader may expect of these 1,415 pages. The best I can say is that reading it is analogous to -nding oneself trapped at a party for a small eternity with some youthful cocaine -end.

As a result of their intoxication this imaginary party-goer is wildly self-opinionated, overcon-dent, and manically keen to share their breathless world view with you in a non-stop monologue. Their con-dence is, unfortunately, enhanced by their rather geekish familiarity with the last two years' content of the New Scientist.

Add to this imaginary scenario their drug-induced certainty that their stream of consciousness is endlessly fascinating, insightful and radical, and you can imagine how I felt by page 1,415. If you too have ever endured such a loud, skittish, undiscerning deluge, you might also echo my plea for the orator to 'please, turn down the volume'.

That same plea seems oddly appropriate both to any architect who also proposes a 5 x 5 x 5km building cube as a module for future urban life, or any potential purchaser of this book.

Alex Wright is an architect and teacher in Bath

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