Greenwich has long been a point of focus when it comes to marking time. So, despite tough competition from Birmingham, it is fitting that it was chosen to host the national centrepiece of the millennium celebrations.
The development has seen more than its fair share of controversy. Health scares because of the contaminated site, funding scares because of its cost, deadline scares because of the time, and environmental scares because of the PVC dome have all raised their heads at some point, keeping Greenwich firmly in the headlines.
The one aspect of the project to feature in the headlines less often is the content of the giant dome, for the simple reason that, as yet, we have little idea what it will be. A shortlist of design groups to develop exhibition space within the dome is being formed but the organisers of the New Millennium Experience are remaining tight-lipped as to the competitors.
So what would UK designers include in their dome? A team formed by Valerie Wickes at Din Associates thinks the interior of the dome should allow for all the fun of the seaside (below). Philip Dolman, an associate at the consultancy, says its plans are “in the tradition of the great lidos, such as Brockwell Park, south London”.
In the same tradition perhaps, but to a far larger scale. “It would be enormous, with waves and donkey rides. And with controllable weather,” says Dolman.
The Din Dome would not have an exhibition, one of the major elements of plans for the real dome, at all. But would probably attract far more people…
Meanwhile, Jon Turner, head of creative services at The Body Shop, tells us what he would like to see (below right).
Jon Turner, head of creative services, The Body Shop
The Festival of Britain, we are led to believe, raised the spirits of a demotivated generation, offering hope and leaving the country with permanent landmarks. I cannot understand why the Millennium Dome is not to be permanent since there are so many great suggestions for after uses, my own favourite being Bridget Jones’ call for a new Harvey Nichols, or a huge car park, or a holiday venue. A museum of all the errors of the last thousand years is appealing too.
Does our recent change of Government represent sufficient justification to claim ourselves to have been a demotivated generation now in need of up-lifting? New Labour: New Festival of Britain?
The design spirit of 1951 has been described by Penny Sparke as “Suburbia goes Space Age”, which is appropriate as today’s “Mars Fever” grows, maybe offering us the opportunity to enjoy a controlled environment full of red dust managed by Center Parcs.
Like many other people I shudder at the idea of an exhibition, and I can think of 2000 other uses for the funding, but, as it’s there for the pitching, I hope that Britain’s creative talent can save us from heat, queues and hundreds of educational panels with occasional interactive highlights.
If amazing technology is to be on the agenda it must presumably match or surpass the achievements of Florida’s Epcot Center, against which it will be judged by the masses (for many of whom it is more appealing to visit Florida than Greenwich) and who will only go if the organisers can match Safeways’ promise of only two people queuing in front of them.
As an investor in the project, I would only proceed if a wild and provocative scheme involving the largest number of the British people was proposed, with free passes to the entire nation. The creative work should be executed not just by the big boys of our industry, but through the use of excellent design management working with the raw energy and enthusiasm of many British talents (from youths to octogenarians, amateurs and professionals) retaining the surprise and innovation which is often bullied out of such family events.
I wait with great excitement.