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London's great exhibition comes to Docklands

After a decade of work and funding battles, Moxley Architects has finally got the green light for its plans for ExCeL, London's largest single-site exhibition centre.

Last week the project in Newham - rapidly becoming the capital's hive of architectural activity - secured its final tranche of funding courtesy of a £183.5 million bond issue. The first, £210 million, phase will start shortly on the 34ha site owned by English Partnerships on the northern side of the Royal Victoria Dock.

Mike Moxley said the building's main advantage over somewhere like the nec or Olympia was its flexibility. It is essentially one building with a boulevard running down the middle, making it divisible by moveable acoustic partitions. In this way, up to eight exhibitions can be going on at the same time.

Phase one will comprise 65,000m2 of column-free exhibition space, 9000m2 of breakout and seminar space and 4500m2 of conference and banqueting facilities. (The building's dimensions of 374m long and 260m deep will mean building 37m out into Victoria Dock.) It will cater for 45,000 people, with parking for 130-140 articulated trucks. Three on-site hotels will provide 1000 bedrooms. More than 5000 car-parking spaces will complete the picture.

The backers of the scheme have long argued that London has a dearth of such exhibition space, with some bodies, like London First, suggesting converting the Dome to such use after its millennium festivities - that now looks unlikely.

ExCeL will be completed in January 2001 with the first shows staged in autumn 2000. Structural engineer is Buro Happold.

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