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Could the Skylon return to the South Bank?

London SE1 website team

It was one of the centrepieces of the Festival of Britain, the postwar celebration that helped establish the South Bank as a centre of the arts. Now a replica of the Skylon could be erected in Jubilee Gardens.

The Skylon was a glittering 88-metre high "spaceship-like spearhead" in aluminium and steel on the South Bank during the Festival of Britain, but was cut into pieces and turned into ashtrays after the festival.

The proposal for a replica has come from the Royal Academy of Arts, who are seeking a fitting tribute to Sir Philip Powell, co-creator of the Skylon, who died last year.

The academy's original plan was to commission a model of the structure for display at its annual Summer Exhibition, but its architectural committee asked architect Ian Ritchie to investigate the more ambitious suggestion of a full-size replica.

Ritchie, architect of the 120-metre spire of Dublin, is at the centre of controversy over another SE1 development: he is the architect behind Berkley Homes' proposed cylindrical towers for the Potters Fields site near Tower Bridge. Ian Ritchie Architects also designed Bermondsey Station on the Jubilee Line Extension.

Ritchie has said that a replica is feasible and would cost around 800,000, which could be raised privately. He told The Guardian: "It would look fantastic. Everyone I have spoken to has extraordinary sentiments about the Skylon. It was a very, very good design. I find it exciting. It was the godfather of the London Eye and the other tensile steel structures which now stand along the Thames."

Work is due to start this month on the refurbishment of Jubilee Gardens, and the South Bank Centre has given a non-committal response to the Skylon proposal. Chief executive Michael Lynch says "We would have to look at [the] proposal as part of our plans for the wider redevelopment of the South Bank site.

"Plans for Jubilee Gardens are well advanced with local stakeholders. We would not wish to prejudice discussions currently under way on the rest of the site."

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