The Dome: A visual feast for grown-ups

Much has been made of the entertainment and education aspects of the Dome, but it has been a unique opportunity for architects and artists

Euan Blair will probably love the Dome. The Prime Minister's son - the great litmus test for whether or not the nation's youth will be suitably engaged by the Millennium Experience - will be able to munch McDonald's burgers there, watch acrobats and dancers performing in the central arena, and then point and click his way around the interactive exhibits which fill the 14 themed zones. There is almost nothing intellectually challenging to get in the way of his teenage kicks.

But what about the rest of us, those who might be a little older or, dare one say it, wiser? Is there anything in what Tony Blair has called "the greatest show on earth" that might interest us? Well, the critics have already given their verdict and, from the top toffs at the Daily Telegraph ("deathly dull") to the middlebrow mums at the Daily Mail ("words fail me"), they are unanimous in their condemnation. So does this thing really have no redeeming features?

The answer is yes, but they're few and far between. First, and most importantly, there is the Dome itself. Anybody who hasn't seen it in the flesh will be overwhelmed by its vast, impressive structure, all rippling with hi-tech engineering like a well-toned body. Combine this with its green credentials (that water flushing the loos is recycled rain from the roof) and it is everything you would expect from Richard Rogers, the architect who also brought us the Pompidou Centre and the Lloyds building.

Before you step inside the tent though, take time to search out the art at its perimeter. Leading artists were commissioned to make a series of "site-specific" works - there is Tacita Dean's sound installation composed of 24-hour recordings taken at five ports around the world, and a pair of wiggly neon tubes by Bill Culbert. Most impressively, there's a section of a cargo ship from Richard Wilson, a freshly painted fragment standing on the mud flats of the Thames, the stains on its hull marking the rise and fall of the tide. What does it mean? God knows, but at least it's quieter and more resonant than what goes on inside the Dome.

Close by is a huge and overrated sculpture by Antony "Angel of the North" Gormley. This pile of metal rods is sited on the pier where the Queen will arrive on New Year's Eve. Much more alluring is the landscaping of a second and now derelict pier, its crumbling timber structure newly planted with trees and grass - it's a beautiful and romantic celebration of decay that contrasts sharply with all the shiny newness nearby.

Now brace yourself. Inside the Dome most of the exhibits are of the headache-inducing interactive variety ("Anadin should have been a sponsor," suggested one critic). If you're the type who gets distressed by lengthy download times, then the best course of action is to take in the broader picture first by wondering around the Dome's rather camp pink ringroad. Most of the zones are much more impressive from the outside, and five in particular stand out.

The first is the Body Zone by the architect Nigel Coates, a tour de force of computer-aided design in which hundreds of lenticular tiles cover the sinuous shape of the abstracted hermaphrodite form. The exterior of the Work/Learning Zone, a building-sized image of trees, paper-making and books, which flicks like a massive advertising hoarding, is a refreshing low-tech triumph. The mirrored Orchard of Learning inside is exceptional in the Dome for being clever and surreal. What a shame it's also filled with computer screens.

Zaha Hadid, one of Britain's most celebrated avant-garde architects, designed the Mind Zone. The exhibits will almost certainly confound you. But it's still worth checking out the wonderful recoiling starfish, made by Richard Brown, and the oversized "boy" by Ron Mueck (the link between this piece and the subject of mind seems highly tenuous, but why turn away good art?) and then immersing yourself in the Acoustic Dislocation Chamber by Ryoji Ikeda. Outside, Hadid's big zig-zagging structure with its cladding of mirrors and light boxes lends some much-needed sparkle to it all.

Next door to Mind is the Faith Zone by the architect Eva Jiricna. The central space, designed for contemplation by the American artist James Turrell, is a refuge for the frazzled. A bigger bolthole is the Rest Zone, designed by Rogers: a giant, curvy, soft-lined structure painted in hippy rainbow colours and containing - oh bliss - nothing.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Bianca Miller in the final of The Apprentice
tvMark Wright and Bianca Miller fight for Lord Sugar's investment
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
News
i100
Extras
indybest
News
peopleLiam Williams posted photo of himself dressed as Wilfried Bony
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice finalists Mark Wright and Bianca Miller
tvBut who should win The Apprentice?
News
The monkey made several attempts to revive his friend before he regained consciousness
video
Extras
indybest
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Support Analyst - Bristol

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...

    Day In a Page

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick