Irrespective of the eventual outcome on the Millennium Dome, the current scale of anguish over the project should not eclipse the fact that the business case for this initiative was never robust. In 1996 the AJ published an interview with Jennie Page containing confident claims for the Dome's contribution to economic regeneration, and proposing that an eventual audit would reflect well on it (AJ 14.11.96).
My letter which the AJ published in response to this pointed out that the long term benefits of the project, a demonstration of how these would be achieved, and the formulation of criteria to evaluate the project all needed attention - prior to implementation. I quote: 'Every AJ reader surely welcomes vision, but vision (especially complex ones requiring commercial and public buy-in) call for rigour. At present rigour is not being shown.'
The point of this reminder is not to gloat 'I told you so', but to recognise the need for clarity at project inception.Even last week I was approached to help define the brief for a high profile, innovative public project on which designers were to swing into action some 10 days later. As an industry we must learn that directing intelligence, experience and time to posing and answering the right questions upstream is more cost-effective than wasting significant resources on misdirected design with sub-optimal outcomes. Just because blind faith may beget the odd beauty on occasion is no reason to perpetuate such an irrational impediment to achieving more consistent value.
Ziona Strelitz, principal, ZZA