Off topic comment pre-Christmas. As we hear about the imminent
dismantling of the exhibits in the Millennium Dome, there may be a few
list members thinking about visiting in the last few weeks, or
alternatively wondering how it went so wrong.
If you go, take an advance look at www.gmt2000.co.uk/meridian/hstry.
You will see a page which summarises the findings of a PhD (1996) by
Mary Mills. It lists twenty-two events in the exploitation of Greenwich
Marsh, from medieval grazing through to illicit rave parties. It
includes an industrial scale corn mill exploiting tide power, and the
Victorian Blackwall Tunnel under the Thames which still functions
beneath the Dome. And not least `the world's best gas works' with
Europe's largest gas holder.
Unless you knew that the site had a history you would not discover it
from the exhibition. It is totally opaque on its heritage, no sense of
place. MoLAS' web site reports a watching brief at Drawdock Road in
1998 (shades of what OAU has been doing subsequently at the nearby Royal
Arsenal site). I would have been fascinated to know what else needed to
be done to make the world's best gasworks usable, the technology of
regeneration, part of an ongoing process in London's dockland.
You might have thought this was a story which the developers would be
proud to have told, a bit of industrial heroism, but the `environmental'
exhibit in the Dome (Living Island) is the only one which does not
declare its sponsors. And one of the real spectacles is the sky line of
Canary Wharf on the opposite bank, which you only discover if you go
looking for it. Sad person that I am, this would have placed the
razzmatazz and hype in context.
May not be archaeology, but to me this is part of the historic
environment of one of the world's greatest cities. I am of an age
where I can recall a sense of outrage that the `Dome of Discovery' at
the Festival of Britain in 1951 was to be demolished at the end of that
exhibition. The Millennium Dome will survive longer as a structure, but
there is a sense of disappointment for the promoters, so nearly a great
event. I would like to think that whatever else it is used for, the
designers make space for a small exhibit (shrine even) which forges the
link between its past and its future, featuring Canary Wharf as a
Any thoughts? - Brian
[log in to unmask] (home)
also [log in to unmask] (OCC Planning Control and Conservation)
also [log in to unmask] (OAU)