Bye-bye Bayley. Hello millennial optimism
Tuesday 13 January 1998
asks Nonie Niesewand.
Six months after his appointment as the man responsible for the Millennium Experience, Stephen Bayley has resigned on a wave of bombast and rudeness. On Sunday he claimed that the dome might turn out to be "crap". But his timely departure may just have been in time to save it from that fate. By his endorsement of some of the things he introduced, such as the giant sphere drawn to earth by a magnet, which, he explained, "doesn't really mean anything, but it gives you a counter-intuitive ... thing
Bayley is dismayed by the visit of the Minister without Portfolio, Peter Mandelson, to Disney World in Florida.
I never thought I would feel sorry for Mandelson, but I am. Why shouldn't he learn from Disney? I'd be dismayed if he didn't. This Millennium Experience is taking place in the world's largest dome building, the size of two Wembley Stadiums, taller than Nelson's Column, costing the nation pounds 750m. Every exhibition organiser these days takes note of the way Disney packs in crowds on a timed schedule to give the punters their money's worth.
Disney's crowd control methods move vast numbers through thrills. What you can't have in big events are queues of people milling about, getting hot and flustered. Even at Expo 92 in Seville, the last big celebration of national showmanship, the world took notice of Disney.
Two particularly unfortunate remarks reveal Bayley to be a man of unbelievable political insensitivity. By suggesting in The Sunday Telegraph that "the whole way in which the project is being run is pure East Germany", and saying that "if Mandy went down to a voodoo sacrifice in Brixton tonight he'd come back tomorrow saying `We must have some voodoo sacrifices in the Dome'", he shows, if there were any doubt, precisely why he isn't the man for the job. The Millennium Experience needs a pragmatist, not a poseur.
Bayley may have left a bad taste. But in his slipstream, his legacy continues. Nine design consultancy teams have been appointed to help fill the Dome with their designs. After an advertisement in the European Review brought applications, Bayley selected a short-list and asked them to make proposals for pavilions in the Dome.With their letter of appointment they were asked to submit their rates - and to say absolutely nothing about the project. It's too bad that a similar inhibition was not placed upon Mr Bayley.
With chutzpah - and wishful thinking - he told The Sunday Telegraph that "they won't take advice from me, Richard Rogers, or Terence Conran or any of their advisers"; but Richard Rogers, architect of the Dome, was far from delighted with the appointment of Mr Bayley as creative consultant.
Before his appointment, Richard Rogers planned the Millennium Experience with Imagination Gallery.Their confidential document described going to the site as "an odyssey into the future". This is what they wanted to celebrate: national creativity, the individual, the story of time and especially the future, our ownership of the Meridian, the moment of the new millennium. In an asterisked, handwritten addition to this list Richard Rogers added "Religion", showing himself to be at least one jump ahead of Stephen Bayley, who has let the God slot become a a contentious issue.
These are the plans Bayley dismantled. A central drum, holding 10,000 people for a 30-40-minute multi-media show running all day, would go from the Big Bang through the evolution of matter to the creation of human civilisation, quickening as it raced to the present.The climax would be sudden silence. Then the drum would open, pushing the audience from the present to the future into the "doughnut" - the outer ring within the dome. Here there are 60 pavilions. In one big block of three, time divides into: who we are and could be (mind and body); what we do and could do (culture and achievement); where we live and could live (community,environment, universe). Some pavilions are huge and hi-tech; others are simple diversions: a trip through the human body, a taped oral history, religious art and practice through the past 2000 years.
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