ABSTRACT

There are ways in which the UK’s Millennium Dome of 2000, built near London to contain a national and international celebration of life in the first year of the new millennium, could be claimed as a success. With 6.5 million visitors, it matched its historic forebears, the 1851 Great Exhibition and 1951 Festival of Britain, whose respective 150th and 50th anniversaries it commemorated a year early. The Dome affirmed a continuing role for the state in the cultural definition of its people and its times, and this role was inclusive, liberal, multicultural. The Dome channeled investment into an area of urban deprivation and provided a sampling of turn-of-the-century biomorphic, surrealistic, and deconstructivist architectural taste. Given the size of the gamble, it was a credit to the Dome’s organizers that the show opened on time and with exhibits in it. Its hemorrhaging of money only followed a grand tradition established by the New York World’s Fairs of 1939-40 and 1964-65, for example, and by New Orleans in 1984, and by the 1992 Columbus projects in Genoa and Seville.3