As 1998 drew to a close, the design for the Self Portrait Zone was complete, construction was due to begin and the general atmosphere surrounding the development was relaxed.
It was then that the bombshell was dropped. The Zone was moving to a completely new location, to a site that had tripled in size to approximately 2000m2.
'Suddenly, the old design of six raised cylindrical pods on a central leg made no sense.' says Buro Happold project engineer Andrew Best. 'We needed a totally new concept - and fast!'.
The team soon came up with a single large diameter drum concept. Detail design began in January 1999, construction started in April and the main structural works were complete 10 weeks later.
At the heart of the circular structure is a 12m high steel frame 'applecore', externally clad in around 200 silver GRP panels. The space-age colour scheme is continued internally with the use of unusual silver PTFE-coated glass cloth on the roof and walls.
Enveloping the applecore is a large cylindrical steel frame system known as the 'andscape', suspended from the roof. Lightboxes have been built into the frame to display an array of photographs, producing a bright and airy atmosphere.
Externally, acid etched glass panels rotate, secured to a tracking system fixed to the andscape. Best was particularly concerned about the andscape's rigidity as any excessive movement could shatter the rotating glass.
'The whole andscape could deform due to gusts of wind entering from a nearby Dome door,' he explains. 'So we added steel props to support it against the central structure.'
Entrance into the Zone is via a ramp that passes under the andscape. The ramp follows the curve around the main structure at a gentle gradient until it reaches the entrance to the central structure. Further images and sculpture are housed inside.
Sponsor: Marks & Spencer
Structural and M&E engineer: Buro Happold
GRP panels: Design and Display
Teflon-coated fabric: Landrell
Steelwork: William Hare