Designers fear `shallow’ Millennium exhibition

Museum and exhibition designers fear that the national exhibition being planned to mark the Millennium may degenerate into a “shallow, glitzy” affair. The Museum & Exhibition Design Group is to challenge the Millennium Commission over fears that quality design will be ignored for the high-profile national exhibition planned for the year 2000.

The commission has published a consultation paper kick-starting its search for a final format for the exhibition. Seeking suggestions on the theme, location and shape of the exhibition, it is being circulated to local authorities, public bodies, developers and the museum and exhibition community.

“We want it to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for shared experiences and discovery, and the focus for the Millennium celebrations,” says the commission’s chief executive Jennie Page.

But MEDG chairman Richard Fowler will approach the commission with his fears that the exhibition could degenerate into “shallow, glitzy events with no substance”. He is worried that museum design expertise will not be used, and the event will be designed by “media and theatre specialists who will turn it into a lightweight event of hyperbole”.

Fowler recommends that the commission uses the 1951 Festival of Britain as a point of reference. “We need facts and research that people can learn from, we don’t want to be wooed by what’s trendy now,” he adds.

Mike Elrick, spokesman for the Millennium Commission, says that Fowler can “rest assured – good design will be a priority”. He says the commission is aware of the pitfalls: “We want [the exhibition] to attract international visitors. We need a strong visual element, but it has to be educational too.”

The closing date for feedback from the consultation paper is 14 April, and a decision on the format and location of the exhibition is expected by the end of 1995.

The Millennium Commission is to be asked for ú50m towards an ú800m plan to create Millennicom, a project to regenerate an unemployment blackspot on a 485ha site in Nottinghamshire.

Building Design Partnership’s Manchester office is planning the scheme, which includes Telecore, a “mini Telecom tower”, according to BDP Manchester planning director Simon Bedford.

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