Under the Dome: how The Crystal Maze was built for a new generation

Crystal Maze

After designer Colin Foster drew up the design in Solidworks the team got to work on making the 4.5m diameter toughened glass dome a reality. It was to feature a faceted, hinged door, a letter box to collect participants' tokens and a computer-controlled fan system (instead of a manual system) to blow the tokens around inside. They had a task on their hands.

Laser focus

"All those complicated angles and triangles with different lengths and meeting angles were all worked out accurately on the computer," Simon says.

"Once we got those designs signed off we could take it apart in Solidworks, and send all the metal laser cutting work out to contractors. The bits would come back here and would get welded together. There were about 50 triangles that pre-assembled together to make pentagons."

Crystal Maze

Once the laser-cut structural metal components were back at Artem, the team used its extensive range of in-house cutting and welding equipment to fit everything together.

They used Artem's CNC router to make complicated welding jigs, then laid the pre-cut parts inside them to weld them all together. Once welded together and pre-assembled to check that everything fitted perfectly, the whole structure was taken apart again and sent away for powder coating in order to increase durability and achieve a modern finish.

Crystal Maze

It had to be a precise and meticulous build as being a geometric shape there was no room for error.

"You can imagine that if there was a tiny mistake it would compound so you could have easily got to a point where you put it all together and the final two pieces wouldn't quite meet. That didn't happen," Simon says.

Crystal Maze

With the newly erected Crystal Dome now sitting proudly inside Artem studios, it was time to test the reincarnated gameshow icon.

Fans of the show

"The biggest challenge was undoubtedly the fans," Simon explains. "I mentioned earlier that with the original Dome we had these manually operated wind machines in the base. For this Dome there was a different criteria - it had to operate automatically.

"I had the idea of putting a trench around the platform in the middle where the participants are standing, and having a series of fans at the bottom of the trench. Then there would be sloped side in a roughly spiral arrangement, so when the fan came on they would produce a vortex.

Further to that we thought we needed to have a movement of air across the floor to wash the tokens after each go. This was all just theory, but when it came to reality..."

Crystal Maze

Simon found that the tokens were getting caught up in the fans, so using its experience with wind machines and wind-based effects, the team made some tweaks and sealed up some air gaps until the system worked.

These operational kinks now ironed out the Dome was then transported to its new home in King's Cross, ready to confound and delight a new generation of Crystal Mazers, this time allowing them to actually experience the games and the iconic Dome first-hand instead of watching them from the comfort of their living rooms.

Crystal Maze

For Artem it was a chance, in a world where many are pushing virtual reality as a source of immersive experiences, to work on another project that had physical, tangible involvement at its heart, as well as revisiting a project it was intimately involved in 20-plus years ago.

So now it's open to the public, does Simon have any advice for those about to take the Dome challenge?

"Wear knee pads. It's a very physical experience!"

For more details on how to book tickets to The Crystal Maze experience go to the-crystal-maze.com.