clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

$1.2 billion British dome will be first site to welcome 21st century

A hollow sculpture larger than the Statue of Liberty, a fake Antarctic and an artificial dreamland where visitors can travel on boats shaped like beds - these are some of the attractions inside Britain's vaunted Millennium Dome.

Prime Minister Tony Blair announced some of the dome's highlights this week at the official launch of the $1.2 billion project.The dome is rising from a derelict site along the Thames River, squarely on the Greenwich Meridian, source of Greenwich Mean Time. That will make it the first spot in the world to mark 2000. It is envisioned as the venue for national celebrations of the new century, a boost for national prestige and a reminder of Britain's former glories.

"Nowhere is doing anything like it. It promises to be the most fantastic day out in the world," Blair told industry leaders.

Critics call the dome a useless waste of money and a monument only to politicians' egos.

Blair was hoping to heat up public support for the dome - largely lukewarm until now - and drum up more funds from private sponsors.

Britain's national lottery is contributing $665 million and British Airways, British Telecommunications PLC and other corporate sponsors have written large checks - but $250 million is still needed.

Attractions are designed to "open up the choices facing humankind in the 21st century and beyond: how we might work, rest and play; what our bodies and minds can do and how beliefs are formed," the organizers said.

Dominated by a 170-foot hollow sculpture of a seated human body will be the Body Zone, which promises a voyage inside the human machine.

Visitors will enter the figure - which is taller than the 151-foot-high Statue of Liberty - at waist level and leave via the right leg, after touring exhibitions on human biology, medicinal advances and unsolved health problems. The figure is planned to be androgynous, although that might change.

A triangular structure built of black glass will be the central attraction of an "oasis of calm and reflection," where visitors will contemplate a laser rising from the center of the floor.

Another zone will show classrooms of the future and use virtual reality technology to let visitors experience a range of jobs.

A "floater-coaster" ride through a series of dream environments will stress the importance of relaxation. Other exhibits will explore mankind's spiritual, emotional and moral dimensions and hi-tech play.

And don't forget those cultural icons: They also will be on display.

But half of the dome's contents are still secret, including areas that focus on creativity, money, communications technology - and what it means to be British.