As part of the year-long Wren 300 celebrations, today (Tuesday 14 March 2023) 80 Year 12 students aged 16-17 selected by the London Diocesan Board for Schools will take part in a unique ‘Build a Dome in a Day’ engineering workshop in the nave at Holy Sepulchre, Holborn Viaduct – the second largest Wren City church and inner London’s largest parish church.
Supported and encouraged by trainee engineers armed with detailed plans and a lot of enthusiasm, the students will build a replica of the famous St Paul’s Cathedral Dome working to the principles of the architect’s original concept. After a visit to the Cathedral to learn about the Dome’s construction, the students will return to Holy Sepulchre, Holborn Viaduct and split into eight teams to construct their 4.5 metre high replica mini dome between 9:45 and 16:30. The replica dome will remain on display from 17:00 to 18:30. All materials will then be recycled with 2200 foam bricks being donated to the Oxford House community arts space in Bethnal Green.
The St Paul’s Cathedral triple Dome is considered to be a masterpiece of structural engineering constructed in Portland stone between 1675 and 1710. The entire structure – inner and outer domes, central cone, drum piers and supports down to foundation level – is estimated to weigh 67,270 tons. It measures 75m (246 feet) across the transepts and stands 111 meters (365 feet) in height. The replica dome will measure 3m (9.84 feet) in diameter by 4.5m in height (14.76 feet).
The event is supported by London Diocesan Churches with funding from the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Ingenious Programme. The event will be attended by the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd and Rt Hon Dame Sarah Mullally DBE. Construction will be filmed on a time-lapse camera and footage made available for press, schools, and the public.
The project is led by Chris Wise RDI FREng, Senior Director of Expedition Engineering, formerly Professor at Imperial, Yale and UCL, and Catherine Ramsden, Founding Director of the architectural practice Useful Studio.
Chris Wise says:
“This practical hands-on exploration of Dome building brings together students with a strong interest in design and technology and trainee engineers. Together they will discover that 300 years on, the legacy of Wren’s background in mathematical sciences and mechanics is alive today helping students to develop the creative, technical, practical expertise and confidence to perform everyday tasks and to participate in an increasingly technological world. We especially want the students and teachers involved to take away learnings from the event based on a real sense of achievement in sharing practical engineering principles and having fun working in teams to find solutions.”
Catherine Ramsden says:
“We’re using foam bricks with a bamboo framework. The wooden support structure round the base will be preconstructed and the bamboo cut to the correct lengths to be formed into trusses to create the outer Dome shape. The central cone which supports the lantern will be built with the foam bricks. The Dome’s covering will be sheets of lead coloured muslin cut into segments to fall over the bamboo structure. The Dome will be lit inside to create a magical effect. The lantern will be part preconstructed and one group of students will complete its construction during the day. Someone will be chosen for the task of placing the lantern in position at the end of the day!”
The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd and Rt Hon Dame Sarah Mullally DBE says:
“We celebrate a wide range of cultures and languages in London. This project is an example of how we can practically make the leading eighteenth-century exponent of English Baroque architecture relevant for today’s students. We are indebted to Wren for the extraordinary legacy of his church buildings. They continue to support people across London, whether as places for Christians to worship and to serve local community needs, as well as for people of all faiths and none to come together.”
Stuart McLeod, Director England - London & South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund says:
“This project is a fantastic example of how to engage young people with the heritage that surrounds us. Wren was one of, if not the, most significant architects we have ever had. If you walk through the City of London, you can find his brilliance around every corner. But it’s important that we take this moment to connect and inspire the next generation with his legacy and, thanks to National Lottery players, this has been made possible.”
The Dome was the tallest building in London from its completion in 1710 to 1963 and remains one of the highest in the world. Since 1937, the City of London Corporation has operated a policy known as the ‘St Paul’s Heights’ to protect and enhance important local views of the Cathedral.
At the launch of the event at the Guildhall Art Gallery on Tuesday 10 January 2023 the Lord Mayor of the City of London, Nicholas Lyons said:
“Sir Christopher Wren arguably did more than any other person to shape the City’s skyline. The stunning buildings he left us continue to inspire and enthral people who live in, work in, and visit the City. The City Corporation is delighted to support this programme, which will help a new generation to learn about Wren’s legacy and foster in 21st century Londoners a connection to and sense of pride in the City.”
For media enquiries please contact Sue Garland
London Diocesan Schools taking partSt Marylebone CE School, 64 Marylebone High Street, London W1U 5BAThe Bishop Wand School CE School, Layton's Lane, Sunbury on Thames
Middlesex, TW16 6LTChelsea Academy, Lots Road, London SW10 0ABSt Mary and St John's CE School, Hendon, London NW4 1ABSt Augustine's CE High School, Oxford Road, Kilburn, London NW6 5SNWren Academy, Hilton Avenue, North Finchley London N12 9HBLady Margaret School, Parsons Green London SW6 4UNBishop Stopford’s School, Brick Lane, Enfield EN1 3PUBishop Ramsey CE School, Hume Way, Ruislip Middlesex HA4 8EEXLP: Working to create positive futures for young people All Hallows-on-the-Wall, 83 London Wall, London, EC2M 5NDFor information on participating schools please contact Stuart Webster, Marketing Executive and Recruitment Co-ordinator, London Diocesan Board for Schools E: firstname.lastname@example.org