MEX Dome Construction Update

Following prolonged pressure from various environmental pressure groups including Greenpeace, Peter Mandelson, the then Government Minister responsible for the Millennium Experience Project, announced the cancellation of the original contract for the Millennium Dome covering that had been awarded to a German company, Koch Hightex. This had provided for 150,000 square metres of a special PVC-coated polyester fabric, one of only two materials then under consideration for the Millennium Exhibition domes.

Instead, it was decided to find the money (£14 million) for a more expensive and longer lasting Teflon-coated fibreglass material that will be supplied by the U.S. company, Birdair who have a manufacturing capability in the U.K.. They have already supplied a similar material for the Folkestone Channel Tunnel Terminal. The change followed extensive investigatons into possible alternative materials and manufacturers in order to meet the strict technical and operational requirements for the buildings.

October 1999 update…. It is understood that there is a major problem with noise inside the Dome! Apparently at present it is almost deafening during periods of particularly heavy rain and an urgent solution to the problem of dissipating some of this sound is being sought.

Construction of the Dome on the Greenwich Peninsula involved 300 workers initially (September ’97) and many more by early 1998. The twelve, 100-metre, yellow-painted steel supporting masts for the Dome were assembled on site that month. Erection of the masts began on Monday, October 13th 1997 and was completed on schedule by the end of the month. Steel support cables were then threaded in place to create the spider web on which to hang the roofing material. Work began on the upper ‘umbrella’ in late February 1998 and was completed in early May.

Work was also complete on the elaborate ‘mouth’ shaped canopy for the adjacent glass-walled North Greenwich Jubilee Line station by May 1998.

Side-by-side.. Dome ‘umbrella’ and station canopy
3/5/98, 7.00pm
Image Copyright: David Riddle

The best vantage points to view the Dome construction site (and it *is* worth a look) are the River Lea bridge on the Limehouse Link route through to Silvertown Way (but go by bike, then you can stop), the Blue Bridge on the Isle of Dogs (at the eastern end of West India Dock) and from a nearby pub, and from the Canary Wharf Tower if you know anyone that works there that can invite you in!

Rumours have emerged of a ghost on the Dome site! It has been reported that a ghost has been seen of the former owner, George Livesey, Chairman of the South Metropolitan Gas Works and the man that was responsible for the East Greenwich Gas Works that formerly occupied the land where the Dome is being constructed. Livesey was a deeply religious man with strong beliefs about society and was a national figure in the temperance movement. His ghost is said to be ‘friendly’!

Dome canopy nearing completion
Dome ‘umbrella’, 3/5/98, 7.00pm
Image Copyright David Riddle
4 masts erected
Early construction stage – 4 masts up
Copyright David Riddle

Also, at the Royal Naval College in Greenwich Town Centre, the old squash-racquet courts have been converted into a £100,000 visitor centre. This has been undertaken by two local firms – the Eltham building contractors, Bryen and Langley Ltd and Greenwich architects, Timpson Manley. The Centre is aimed to provide local residents, school groups and visitors with up-to-date information on construction work at the site as well as up-to-date information on the Experience content.

The MEX Visitor Centre closed in November 1999 and was replaced with a new home for the Greenwich Tourist Centre (GTC). This opened for business in January 2000.

Original source: NewsShopper, 7/5/97


The Guide magazine, September 1997
Numerous personal visits, September 1997-May 1999
Greenwich Industrial History Society, Newsletter, Volume 1, Issue 1, April 1998
Conference Visit, October 1999
Some recent pictures..

Web’d by David Riddle

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