The Millennium Dome was constructed to be the home of a very large exhibition that was to celebrate the coming of the third millennium. It sits on the Greenwich Peninsula at the edge of South East London, England. Its western edge is passed by the Prime Meridian and it is now known as the O2 Arena.
The Millennium Dome was designed by Richard Rogers. Rogers is known around the United Kingdom for his very functional, semi-modernist design flair. He has worked on the Lloyd's Building, and the Court of Human Rights building that is in Strasbourg. He has won the Thomas Jefferson Medal, the Minerva Medal, the RIBA Stirling Prize, and the Pritzker Prize in recognition of his architectural achievements. He is a partner at the Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners architecture firm.
Design and Construction
The building is constructed out of tensioned fabric over a skeleton of steel. Of the many large domes worldwide which share this construction scheme, the Millennium Dome is one of the largest. Symbolism is key to the design of the dome and there are many symbolic pieces of the structure. It has 12 supports that jut out from the cloth ceiling that represent the months of the year and the hours on a clock face. This is an attempt to pay homage to the role of Greenwich Mean Time since the Prime Meridian passes just to the west of the building. The circular dome also has a diameter of 365 metres to represent the days of the year. The centre of the dome is a full 52 metres tall to represent the 52 weeks in each year.
The top of the structure is comprised of a thick glass/fibre fabric that has been coated with PTFE. It is a very durable material that is commonly used in similarly styled buildings. Due to the fact that the roof is held together using 12 struts, the building is not technically a "dome" by architectural standards. The roof was designed to actually be lighter than the air inside of the building. This helps its structural integrity significantly.
The land upon which the Millennium Dome sits was once heavily contaminated by toxic runoff and waste from the East Greenwich Gas Works. The Millennium Dome was originally supposed to be much smaller than it turned out to be and was meant to be a conservatively-sized exhibition. In 1997, the Labour government pushed the size and scope of the proposed dome to its limits and led to the development of the enormous structure that exists today. It was decided that the project would be both a reclamation effort of the Greenwich Peninsula and an enormous celebration of the coming of the new millennium.
After the failure of the Millennium Exhibition and the resulting scandal over the cost of the Millennium Dome, the dome was sold and has been rebranded as O2 Arena. It is a major exhibition and events venue in London that often hosts concerts by famous bands.