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Let's have vision on the South Bank rather than simply reliving the past


Why is it that initiatives to redevelop the South Bank are consistently thwarted or delayed, while the idea of rebuilding the Skylon appears to have a genuine chance of success? By all means let's get an Ian Ritchie building down there. But commissioning him to undertake an exercise in pastiche is a sorry waste of his talents. Ritchie is deemed to be 'the man for the job'on the basis of his triumphant 120m Dublin Spire. But surely what the spire demonstrated was both Ritchie's vision, and his ability to marry sculptural form with modern engineering - neither of which would be called upon with this rather sorry task. As he eloquently demonstrated with his sublime concert platform in Crystal Palace Park - a vandal-resistant, low-maintenance modern-day take on the traditional bandstand - Ritchie would be more than capable of capturing the essential values of that historic icon in a structure more fitting for today.

Plans to rebuild anything different would, of course, lead to endless discussions as to who, what and how and ignite the passions of the disparate bodies who have made it their business to discourage innovative development on that particular stretch of the Thames. At worst, we would end up with another depressing outbreak of community-friendly public art. The appeal of the plan to rebuild Skylon is that it is essentially a single-decision decision. Give the green light, raise the money and proceed. What's more, as with so many very bad ideas, it has the pleasing veneer of moral righteousness, in this instance by being presented as a move to honour the memory of Sir Philip Powell, joint designer of the original Skylon, who died last May.

But is it really a mark of respect to assume that Skylon could withstand the test of time? It was intended to be a temporary structure. And it was. As with anything specifically designed to capture the spirit of the moment, it would - and should - have been rapidly out of date.

Captialising on the current wave of interest and nostalgia to find resources for a contemporary structure would be a far more fitting tribute to Skylon's success.

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