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Dome's mind and body zones unveiled in blaze of publicity

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Zone designs by Zaha Hadid and Branson Coates for the interior of the Millennium Dome were unveiled this week, but the organiser still faces criticism on design matters, with just 400 days to go.

Hadid's Mind Zone is described by the New Millennium Experience Company as one of the most architecturally daring in the dome. It includes a bridge, interweaving and curving decks, and giant screens to combine art and technology in an exploration of the mind.

Branson Coates Architecture, working with designer hp:icm on the Body Zone, revealed a sculptural reclining shape. The original parent with child prototype has been reworked to represent male and female figures in one form. The 27m-high figure, which could be constructed in multi- coloured fibrous tiles, will measure 64m from elbow to foot. A plaza and escalators inside will lead visitors through an odyssey of themes on lifestyle and health.

However the dome, with 14 exhibition zones circling a central performance space, is still attracting controversy. Muf Architects, originally commissioned as a lead designer for the Local Zone, was replaced by hp:icm in March. Muf has done no further design work, yet says it has not been officially sacked.

A source said the decision to drop Muf was nothing to do with quality of work but because its work was considered unsuitable for the dome. Muf is to display designs for what would have gone in the dome at the Architecture Foundation in January in an exhibition called 'Not the Dome Project'.

Design briefs have been citicised for being vague. Interpretive designer Land Design Studio, which is working on the Play Zone, said the brief was constantly being 'focused'. 'Inevitably a lot of things are happening at the same time,' said creative director Peter Higgins. 'We are trying to keep our heads down and concentrate on the content. The brief is being written and devised. We were not handed a brief to respond to and we are constantly trying to focus it; it is wide-ranging.'

Land Design Studio's Play Zone is a suspended 'magical box' with a surreal landscape created by optical materials, said Higgins. Inside will be digital and interactive learning games.

Another zone designer said that the nature of the project made the briefing process very sensitive and had to be approved by content officials and nmec which made it 'a little more interesting.'

The nmec says that dome sponsorship has reached £120 million - double the previous record, which was achieved for Euro 96. It wants £150 million in total. Eva Jiricna and Jasper Jacobs Associates' Spirit Zone has secured sponsorship.

Figures were not released for individual zones but all designs were funded from £191 million set aside to cover the central space and zones.

See News in Pictures, page 9.

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