100 budding engineers recreate Wren's triple dome of St Paul’s Cathedral

The triple dome of St Paul’s Cathedral is one of Christopher Wren’s (1632 -1723) most complex and awe-inspiring designs and in 18th-century Britain there was nothing to rival it. Having survived the Blitz in World War II, the iconic Dome of St Paul’s Cathedral dome today remains among the highest in the world. The lantern alone weighs some 850 tons. The entire structure – including inner and outer domes, central cone, drum piers and supports down to foundation level – has been reckoned at 67,270 tons.

It is a masterpiece of structural engineering, and even today there is much young engineers can learn from Wren’s remarkable, indeed iconic, achievement. That’s why as part of the year-long the Square Mile Churches Wren300 celebrations, supported by a £241,000 grant by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, a very special one-day workshop took place in the church of Holy Sepulchre during School Science Week on 14th March 2023.

Sponsored by the Royal Academy of Engineering, this remarkable project involved 100 secondary school pupils. Led by Chris Wise (Senior Director, Expedition Engineering) and Catherine Ramsden (Founding Director of the architectural practice Useful Studio), and supported by 10 young trainee engineers, students were given the chance to test their engineering potential in a practical, hands-on exploration.

After visiting St Paul’s Cathedral to see the Dome for themselves and learn more about it, the Year 12 students were challenged to build a mini-dome (3m in diameter x 4.5m high), using a variety of different modern materials, including foam blocks and bamboo, with lead-coloured muslin covering the exterior.


The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd and Rt Hon Dame Sarah Mullally DBE

“Wren’s masterpiece is as remarkable today as when it was first built, and remains a testament to his visionary talent, which was truly years ahead of its time. I look forward to seeing London’s next generation of engineers have the opportunity to follow in Wren’s footsteps and create their own ‘mini dome.’ We are indebted to Wren for the extraordinary legacy of his church buildings, which centuries later continue to provide places of solace to Christians across London, as well as spaces for people of all faiths and none to come together.”

Watch the Dome rise in this time-lapse footage from across the day

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