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All systems go for Grimshaw's Space Centre

Nicholas Grimshaw and Partners' National Space Science Centre in Leicester is all set for take-off.

In a fortnight's time the practice's fourth millennium project - along with the Eden Project in Cornwall, the Bath Spa and Millennium Point in Birmingham's Digbeth - will begin taking delivery of the space hardware to be installed into the building's cocoon-like 'landmark' tower.

Rockets, some of them 30m long, will be installed in the tower, which features an exterior ribcage structure and four viewing platforms to allow visitors to get closer to the rockets, missiles and satellites inside. Installation could be tricky, but the lower 21m section of the tower has been designed to be demountable.

The tower breaks out of the otherwise rectilinear form of the £12 million, Lottery-funded centre, and is fabricated from welded tubular girders connected at the apex. An escape stair forms part of the structure, while transparent ETFE foil pillows - a lighter option than glass - will be used as cladding.

The centre is being built on the 11ha site of former storm water tanks on the banks of the River Soar, 4km from the city centre. It will open in spring 2001, complete with a 200-seat geodesic planetarium called the Space Theatre, which also breaks through the square roof; a serious Research Centre formed in association with Leicester University; and exhibition zones.

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