Millenium countdown

The following pages are dedicated to the various celebratory schemes planned for the year 2000 which put design in the spotlight. Matthew Valentine edits Design Week’s round up of projects both at home and abroad as we start counting down to the millenniu

My department promotes good design as good investment. Not only does it provide the best facilities for the users of a building, but it contributes to the quality of the public places which exist around our buildings. Thanks to the National Lottery, the approaching millennium is proving to be a remarkable catalyst for innovative new buildings, since design quality is one of the Millennium Commission’s key funding criteria. From the Orkneys to the Isle of Wight, deprived districts are being regenerated by beautiful, high-quality capital projects, ranging from grand sporting arenas and cultural venues to new village halls. A particularly fine example is the Eden Project in Cornwall, where a worked-out china clay pit is to be transformed by a truly futuristic structure housing a world-class botanical research centre.

Nowhere will Government commitment to good design be more evident than at the New Millennium Experience in Greenwich – a beacon of excellence, not only for a previously derelict corner of southeast London, but for new designers throughout the country. Higher than Nelson’s Column, 320m in diameter and covering 77 000m2, the Dome will be made of a translucent fabric so that it is light and airy inside by day and glows like a spaceship at night. Some of our best British designers and architects are working on the structure and its associated buildings.

The construction work alone will create 2500 new jobs, and not just in London: the dome will use steel from Bolton and Bristol, cabling from Doncaster, piling from Coventry – and there are many contracts still to be let. The emphasis on good design will apply as much to the dome’s contents as its structure. For instance, the Design Council’s Millennium Products Awards scheme, supported by the Department of Trade and Industry, aims to identify 2000 winning industrial and commercial designs, 200 of which will be exhibited at Greenwich and all over the world during the millennial year. I heartily commend the New Millennium Experience and the commission’s other projects to potential contractors and sponsors, and my question to the business world is, can you afford to be left out?

I am sure that, as the new millennium begins, Britain will regain the reputation for technological daring and innovation which made it the byword for progress at the time of the 1851 Great Exhibition. The influence which the National Lottery distributors can bring to bear, and my department’s clear commitment to design excellence in the creative industries, are helping to bring this about. This gives me, as chairman of the Millennium Commission and Culture Secretary, great optimism for the future.

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