Why are the vital giant yellow pillars protruding from the O2 actually there for


That was a long time ago now (yes, we are all getting old), but remember 21 years ago.

In December 1999, everyone was preparing for the biggest New Year of the century.

The greatest new year of the millennium, in fact.

Whether you go to the biggest party in town or have a quiet night watching the fireworks, everyone remembers that last night in December.

And one thing that was to mark this momentous New Years Eve, was the opening of the Millennium Dome – now the O2 as we all know it.

The construction of this building to celebrate the turn of the new millennium had been widely anticipated – but not always in a good way (this was in large part thanks to the £ 750million invested in it).

The inauguration did not go so well either, a “logistical cock-up” like The Guardian described it.

Fireworks explode over the Millennium Dome on January 1, 2000

Guests did not receive tickets in the mail that they had ordered weeks in advance and were invited to spend the first part of what was to be their most memorable New Year’s Eve queuing to collect them at Stratford Station, before boarding the new Jubilee Line to the Dome festivities.

Stratford’s body scanners were not working and hundreds of people were stranded at the station for hours.

A call to the police about an explosive device under the Dome then made the situation even more diabolical.

Fortunately, the call turned out to be a hoax, and guests made it to the Dome for the countdown – a New Years Eve memorable in one way or another.

Even in the days, months and years that followed, opinions remained divided.

As the Encyclopedia Britannica “The Dome has been both praised and criticized – although up close the structure is impressive, from a distance it looks like a partially flattened mushroom perforated by a 12-pin circle.”

But whatever your opinions on the Dome, it happened – it was built and it is here.

Although “The Black Hole of Stratford East” (as a newspaper headline puts it) may have been criticized in its early years, the structure has flourished more recently.

The Dome hosted many sports during the London 2012 Olympics and continues to host a series of festivals, concerts and activities under the name The O2. It is still one of the tallest such buildings in the world and one of the UK’s most recognizable landmarks.

Some Londoners may visit the O2 once a year, others may walk past it every day. And others may never see it at all.

But 20 years later, how many of us know what those big yellow pillars coming out of them actually do and why there are 12 of them?

The story behind the pillars

The Millennium Dome was designed by Richard Rogers, an award-winning Italian-British architect known for his highly functional and modernist designs.

He has worked on many other large constructions – from the Lloyd’s Building in the City of London to the Court of Human Rights building in Strasbourg.

While to many, the big yellow pillars of the Dome may look like, well … big yellow pillars, they’re actually the key to the symbolism of this structure.

The Dome, then called the North Greenwich Arena, during the London 2012 Olympic Games
The Dome, then called the North Greenwich Arena, during the London 2012 Olympic Games

The 12 brackets (which also support the construction) represent both the months of the year and the hours on a clock face.

This is to represent Greenwich Mean Time – the time at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich.

Which also explains why the Dome was also built in Greenwich.

The Dome also has a diameter of 365 meters to represent the days of the year, while the height of 52 meters at the center of the Dome represents each week of the year.

So there you have it – the story behind those big yellow pillars.

Whether you like them or not, at least they will always make sense – regardless of the moment.

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