Defender of the Dome turns to self-defence

It is not “whinging” to point out that the design industry lacks courage in its failure to make constructive comment on the content of the Dome (Comment, DW 2 October). Indeed, Lynda Relph-Knight is right to add that the industry has failed even to use the Dome to keep the Government “abreast of design’s benefits”.

So far, the Dome is just something that’s happened to us. It is because we wanted to begin to recover a sense of agency in design, architecture and society that my colleagues and I wrote the pamphlet In Defence of the Dome.

Matthew Valentine (Review, 2 October 1998) is almost right. But Penny Lewis, Vicky Richardson and I can in no way be described as “respected designers”. Nor are we into “new age wisdom”; in fact, we lampoon it. However, it is true to say that today’s audience for the Dome has had enough experience of theme parks, holidays and media to be “a bit harder to impress” than the audience for 1951.

Yet if British scepticism is “the best in the world”, as Valentine says, it should be directed, not against the ambition to impress in Greenwich in 2000, but against those cultured types who have copped out from the sterner tasks set by today’s more discerning public.

Design for theme parks, exhibitions and media has improved, technically, over the past 40 years. But what New Labour psychologists would term the “emotional intelligence” of the content of entertainment has improved only patchily, if at all. Thus today’s public may be more discerning – but perhaps more in the sense of awareness than that of wisdom.

James Woudhuysen


Seymour Powell

London W1Professor of innovation

De Montfort University

Leicester LE1 9BH

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