Architects deliver despite chaos all around
The London Eye hit teething problems, while the Dome was ready in time for its big day - shattering the myth that private money beats public money when it comes to hitting deadlines. But projects are a victory for architecture. The Wheel may not be turning, but it has already delivered much of its promise by giving Britain a new picture-postcard image to go with the new millennium, gracing the London skyline with an icon which announces that this is not simply a place to live and work, but a city to enjoy. Like the Eiffel Tower, you don't have to get the to experience the Wheel. The Dome, however, would manifestly not have been 'delivered' if it could not be open. It did, and the public has been less than grateful. But the gripes are rarely to do with the architecture.
The fact that the critics can simultaneously scoff that queues are too long and visitor numbers are too low points to a fundamental blunder - the New Millennium Experience Company (nmec) forgot to have a queue zone. As Disneyland has long since taught us, it might take half an hour to reach the Magic Mountain, but nobody minds so long as you are entertained while you wait. It shouldn't be that difficult to integrate such a time- honoured institution as the British queue into an exhibition designed to celebrate all that is great about our nation. It seems astounding that the nmec didn't call the queue zone 'society', making a virtue of the fact that this is where you hang out with people you would never normally get to meet. At a stroke the 'problem' of celebrities and grandees suffering a lengthy wait for entry could be presented as a triumph for egalitarianism and an integral part of the show.
Any of the architects or exhibition designers appointed to work on the Dome could probably have come up with a decent idea for the queue zone. They have, after all, each shown an uncanny ability to create a decent attraction out of a bizarre and often fluctuating brief.
The story of the Dome is that of a competent set of designers undermined by a muddled administration. A story which is mirrored in the current fiasco over the arb's appointment of a new Registrar. While the profession is enjoying a reputation for delivering the goods, its regulatory institution is in disarray.