The dome is quite an amazing thing. The canopy hovers above the ground, with its yellow rockets perched, waiting to launch off into the sky. The structure is unbelievably elegant and light. A pleasure. As a tent it is beautiful.
It is sad that in desperately trying to sell a product to the public, the simplicity of the dome and the ingenuity of its construction are to be totally contradicted by the architecture and exhibits placed within.
The inherent asymmetry given by the presence of an air vent from a deep lying tunnel below could have been an inspiration for dealing with the vast space. The vent, which somewhat represents a miniature cooling tower, elegantly protrudes through the fabric of the roof. This opening, along with glimpses through at ground level to the Thames beyond, gives a setting to this enormous canopy.
There are already regular, repetitive boxes inside the perimeter of the dome and additional service towers outside. By enacting the brief's request of protection from the elements, encasement of the 'cooling tower' and external cladding between canvas and ground were inevitable. The beauty of the 'cooling tower' will be lost and the space within destroyed by airport-like pavilions and gimmicky exhibits.
Would the structure not have been better suited to simpler activities, perhaps as a covered open-air space for events on a scale equalling the enormity of the dome itself? Instead it will be used to exhibit shows better sited in smaller, more specifically designed spaces elsewhere.
It is the vast sum of money involved, combined with the dubious quality of the proposed exhibits and events, that provokes continuous public debate. Would the public be happier if the brief had produced a space conducive to an electric atmosphere created by large-scale, one-off events, rather than 'things' outdated by the time it has been completed?
University of Bath