Dome products could fulfil their functions

As I write this the Government is preparing to reveal at last what will be inside the Millennium Dome. But given the mounting speculation in the media about the contents and continuing wrangles over sponsorship, I imagine we’ll all be sick of the subject by the time the truth is out.

One thing we can hope is that by going public on the details of the project, the New Millennium Experience Company will become more open with those directly involved. We still hear too many tales of lack of communication and coordination of the design groups involved, and the picture appears to be no clearer to the project’s eminent advisors. Contrary to press reports, there has been no official nod that the Dome’s identity creator Martin Lambie-Nairn is effectively creative director on the job, stepping into Stephen Bayley’s shoes. Frankly, it seems an unlikely move given Lambie-Nairn’s gentle, self-effacing nature. What would he gain from being at the heart of such a political hot-bed? But the scenario leaves the project without a “ringmaster”, as architect Lord Rogers puts it.

Another thing likely to be unresolved by Tuesday’s revelations is where the Millennium Products will fit into the Dome’s interiors. The Design Council is going ahead with its selections, though reports are that the assessors had to wade through engineering products which owed much to invention, but little to design. Some assessors feel the council seems bent on redefining the term “design” to ensure it fills the Millennium Products quota.

But where will they go within the Dome? As we understand it at time of going to press, people will happen upon them as they shuffle slowly through.

That sounds better than fencing them off as a museum-style exhibit. But given the number of visitors expected, there’ll be no real opportunity to take them in or to go back to examine something glimpsed earlier. There’s going to have to be a lot of documentation – and legible signs – for visitors to appreciate individual products at all.

Better still is a suggestion put to me last week by an inside source. If the Greenwich event aims to show off the best of British design, why not have so-called Millennium Products doing the job for which they were created.

Visitors could arrive in state-of-the-art transport, have smart cards to access facilities on site, dine in eateries that blend great interior design with innovative food delivery services, use stunningly efficient loos and throw their rubbish in intelligent litter bins.

Maybe the idea is too obvious and uninstitutional to catch on with officialdom by 2000. What do you think?

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