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Dome planners add substance to style

The Millennium Dome at Greenwich is set to cost taxpayers at least pounds 750m, but what exactly will visitors get for their money? Steve Boggan reports on the first clues that began seeping out of project headquarters yesterday.

When he describes what will boggle the minds of those venturing into the New Millennium Experience, Stephen Bayley has an unfortunate habit of using nebulous expressions like "volumetrically bold".

The creative director of the project also likes to parry interviewers' questions by telling them he can't go into detail because it will be so astonishingly mind-blowing that he simply does not have the words to describe it. At least, that is how his style came across yesterday during a lengthy interview on BBC Radio Five Live which ended with the presenter saying: "And after all that, if anyone has any idea what's going to be in the Dome, answers please on a postcard."

In truth, following an article in the Sunday Telegraph and further interviews throughout the day, a clearer picture of the exhibition did begin to emerge. The theme will be Time with heavy emphasis on the future.

It will include "a journey through time and space", designed by the artist David Hockney, and may also involve work by Damien Hirst. There will be a 30ft diameter steel ball interacting with a huge magnet and there is talk of reams of high-tech gadgets and gizmos. There will be open spaces for theatre - perhaps including a 10,000-seater auditorium at its core. Around the circumference will be a pathway or road taking the visitor through themed sections, although whether these were time- or idea-related is still not clear.

"If you look at it like looking down on a cake, at the moment it will be more or less divided up into perhaps nine, perhaps 11, perhaps 12 zones each of which looks at a specific subject, with other areas left aside for essential service functions and for cafeterias, bars and open space for theatrical-type performances," said Mr Bayley on BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend.

"The big creative challenge of the Millennium Dome ... is this - in 1851, Britain created the Great Exhibition of the industry of all nations and that was an event of world historical importance. It provided a great building - the Crystal Palace."

That exhibition, he said, was about objects. The Millennium Experience "is going to be, essentially, about ideas".

"The big creative challenge is to find exciting, stimulating, relevant, entertaining, informative ways of articulating ideas which are going to influence our future".