Never mind plans to flush the Dome's 750 wcs all at once using rainwater collected in hoppers from the giant roof. Forget about the misnamed 'baby dome' (it will seat 5000). The big Greenwich story is about a Millennium comeback. You may recall the curious way in which the Imagination design consultancy broke its links with the project, which it originally won in competition, after Richard Rogers Partnership took over the scheme. Imagination and proprietor Gary Withers were subsequently paid millions of pounds in abortive design fees and that, we thought, was the storyline payoff. Not so. Gary has popped up again: with commissions to design two of the main pavilions in the Dome, for Ford and British Telecom. Richard Rogers Partnership will not be feeling outdone, however. Apart from the Dome itself and its six core administration buildings, the practice is also designing a piazza scheme in front of the entrance, which will comprise 30 units - temporary, to be sure, but properly designed prior to prefabrication. One occupier, accustomed to brilliant prefabrication, but of rubbishy designs, is McDonald's. Perhaps its executives will learn something.
Employing Sir Aston Webb as your architect in the Edwardian era must have seemed a passport to lasting success. The Victoria and Albert Museum, the Admiralty and the Royal Family all turned to the man who looked as if he should have been shooting tigers in India rather than designing major buildings in the heart of the Imperial capital. Over time his reputation collapsed, followed by that of his clients. Now the Royal Family has commissioned John Simpson to make the largest alteration to Buckingham Palace - a £10 million extension to the Queen's Gallery - since Sir Aston added the Mall front in 1913. Will his sensitive and brilliant design (as M'Lord St John described it on Radio 3) match up to Sir Aston's confident muscularity? I trust his proposal will meet with more success than another of his royal- sponsored projects - to rebuild Paternoster Square in twee neo-classicism. As the illustration below shows, nothing changes.
We will not have long to wait until a formal brief for the South Bank redevelopment masterplan becomes available, courtesy of Frank Duffy. Frank it was who wrote the brief for the competition won by Richard Rogers, but which came to nothing. No doubt he will bear in mind Terry Farrell's back-to-ground-level circulation plan from 1987, though whether Farrell would be interested in becoming the new masterplanner looks unlikely (it cost him a fortune in time and money last time). The job will probably be advertised in February. It will be for a 'nuts and bolts' approach, I am told, fitting in possible buildings within a three-option framework. Meanwhile hopes for the ultimate retention of the Hayward and qe Hall are rising. Hot on the heels of Zaha Hadid's brilliant fashion show at the Hayward, we have the prospect of a 'Cities on the Move' exhibition - designed by Rem Koolhaas. Rem for masterplanner!
Bridge so far
Glenda/Trevor/Ken/Jeff or whoever becomes London's mayor may not have powers to raise bonds for major projects, as their counterparts in any serious city would. But they need not despair, for another source of revenue presents itself: river crossings. The Queen Elizabeth II bridge at Dartford has proved enormously lucrative to Trafalgar House, which built and funded the scheme in return for several years' rights to operate it (and receive the tolls). But Trafalgar has to give it back to the Treasury soon. At least one proposal on the table suggests ring-fencing this income - and indeed that of all the lower river crossings - and using it to kick start the East London River Crossing proposal. That's what I call hypothecation.
Wages of syntax
Thinking of avoiding the crush at Trafalgar Square on New Years Eve 1999? Don't worry. Bill Hillier's boffins from the Bartlett's 'space syntax' laboratory are studying the likely movement of people in the area, so that the authorities know which entrances and exits to close. I am sure they will be able to overcome the inherent problem, that Trafalgar Square was originally designed for containment of revolutionary masses. But if you see a callow student with a clipboard in the area, please remember to act exactly as you would if you were in a crowd, so as not to distort the findings.
Laugh or you'll cry
Marco Goldschmied raised a laugh at last week's debate between presidential hopefuls at the riba with a description of the planning meeting from hell: 'Why am I arguing the toss about why this dormer should have more of a vertical emphasis - with an unqualified geographer?' Should get a few crosses on the voting slip.
I do hope executive architect rmjm is not being too protective of cost budgets for the Enric Miralles Scottish Parliament. Donald Dewar, on this occasion, will probably prefer to stick to Spanish practices . . .
Slogan of the year so far comes attached to a pair of cotton and Lycra gentlemen's socks: One size fits most.