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Weighty problems faceDome engineers

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Millennium Dome engineers are juggling the order of the exhibits and trying to ensure that one does not cave into the Blackwall Tunnel.

At present, Eva Jiricna's zone is planned to stand directly over the car tunnel, causing complications in spanning it, said Glyn Trippick, project director for dome engineer Buro Happold. Eva's spirit zone, one of the more ambitious in size, will be limited on the amount of weight it can impose on the tunnel.

Eva Jiricna's structural work is being handled by Techniker, and Zaha Hadid's by Ove Arup, said Trippick. Buro Happold is working with Park Avenue exhibition designer on three zones - the dreamscape, global zone and the learning zone.

'Muf is surrounded in silence that even we can't penetrate,' he said, commenting on the on-off rumours of its participation in the dome. The final order of the zones is still being worked out, he said at a party on the 50th floor of Canary Wharf tower overlooking the 20 per cent-covered dome.

He confirmed that the androgynous figure will be sitting up, contain several floors and will probably be steel framed. There will also be a 20-minute show every 90 minutes in the central performance space.

According to Eva Jiricna, designers are working with Techniker to solve the foundation problem. 'We expect to make adjustments and the design is likely to be more than the budget allows. The zone must be finished next September and will contain a glass bridge, emotional music and lighting effects.'

The dome project is too mammoth for Buro Happold's computers so it is using the Atomic Energy Agency's it to create 3D models to assess internal air movement. 'We do not want to use huge amounts of energy to heat and cool the space,' said Trippick. A large central fan and 2m-diameter fans in each mast will create air movement around the roof.

Mike Davies from the Richard Rogers Partnership said that the cover would cost the same price per metre as a diy shed. 'The weight of all the steel cables and fabric is the same weight as 12m3 of water: the same weight as the water in an average-sized swimming pool.'

The practice is still busy designing entrance facilities, the baby dome and river access by piers. However, 50 per cent of dome visitors are expected via Sir Norman Foster's nearby bus station, nicknamed 'Norm's Moustache' for its resemblance in plan to a clip-on moustache.

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