Letter: Secrets of the Greenwich dome

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Sir: Louis Hellman (Letters, 26 June) has difficulty identifying the "symbolic significance" of Richard Rogers' breathtaking Millennium Dome.

The answer is that this project is the most dramatic - and I suspect also the biggest - manifestation of a range of exciting developments in materials technology and structural engineering, many of which have been pioneered in Britain. These developments - combining hi-tech fabrics and tensioned constructional forms - make possible the creation of large, light, flexible structures that are dramatic in appearance; contain huge, uncluttered spaces; can be built relatively quickly; and may be altered if tastes or requirements change over time.

Other notable examples include buildings by Michael Hopkins such as his wonderful Mound Stand at Lord's cricket ground, the Schlumberger Research Laboratory near Cambridge, the new Inland Revenue building in Nottingham and the Glyndebourne Opera House.

The dome of St Paul's Cathedral and the Dome of Discovery at the Festival of Britain were both important innovations of their own time which exploited the techniques and materials then available to architects. The former took 35 years to build: the latter, for the record, is said to have leaked.

If Mr Hellman seeks a one-word answer to his rhetorical question it is "progress" - something of which any sensible nation would be proud.


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