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Letter: The ideal Dome

Letter: The ideal Dome

Sir: The Great Exhibition of 1851 started with clear objectives, which were largely realised, and an ideal of peace on earth which we still, alas, await. The building was an afterthought, thoroughly utilitarian, and, as it happened, a stroke of genius.

In the Millennium Dome we have been sold an architectural engineer's very costly dream, and if there have been objectives and ideals about its use they have hitherto been successfully concealed from this reader. A hypermarket for supernatural beliefs? Including the Moonies and Scientologists and spaceship suicide cults? The selection committee will have an unenviable job. Prince Albert and Henry Cole, the civil servant who was the driving force behind the Great Exhibition, would think their successors crazy.

Public alarm in 1850-51 was over revolting foreigners, licentious mobs, intolerable pressure on supplies and services in London, industrial espionage, safety of the building, irreversible damage to Hyde Park, and Colonel Sibthorpe's phobia of technology. None of these things worries us today. What is worrying is the huge expenditure on an astonishingly hazy project of resources which are urgently needed for well- defined national needs.


Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire