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The quest to rebuild the Skylon

Atkins Design Director Hayden Nuttall discusses what makes the 1950s Skylon structure so special

It’s not often that one is truly in awe of an historic structure, and is then given the opportunity to re-create it. The Skylon is, without doubt, one of the best ever examples of British design and civic art, whilst also being one of London’s most significant lost icons. For Atkins to be chosen as the engineer to re-build the Skylon is an honour.

In 1951, London’s skyline was transformed, as part of the Festival of Britain, by the erection of one of the most striking structures ever built in this country. The Skylon was a 300 ft tower - an architectural and engineering marvel - designed by Jacko Moya and Philip Powell, two young architects still in their twenties.

The architects' design was made to look structurally feasible, elegant and minimalist by Felix Samuely, a leading structural engineer. With a base 50 feet above the ground and the top nearly 300 feet high, the Skylon was a sculpture that floated like an up-ended airship above the South Bank. Dramatic by day, the Skylon was even more radical, luminescent and exciting at night.

As we approach the 60th anniversary of the Festival of Britain and the creation of the Skylon, Atkins is working closely with the architect Jack Pringle, ex Chair of RIBA, who is driving the campaign to lobby for the recreation of one of Britain’s most innovative structures. Re-building the Skylon will be a fitting way to commemorate this unique and exciting time in British history and a chance to promote world leading design amongst the UK’s aspiring architects and engineers. Once again, the Skylon will become a beacon of creativity and innovation.

The Skylon Team has an open view on where this engineering marvel should be located and has had expressions of interest from a number of parties. Potential locations include its original home on the Southbank, Battersea Gardens (this has particular relevance as it was the home of the second site of the Festival of Britain), Battersea Power Station, or City Hall. Locations outside London are also being considered; include Edinburgh, Newcastle and Cambridge.

The Skylon Team intend, as much as possible, to re-build the Skylon as it was originally constructed. However, the challenge for Atkins is to ensure that it encompasses the latest in engineering and design technologies to create a quality-led and sustainable structure that will last a hundred years or more. The only noticeable change in design will be the illumination of the Skylon, which will add a new and contemporary feel.

The campaign to rebuild the Skylon was launched just a couple of weeks ago at a high profile event at the Skylon Restaurant, Royal Festival Hall in London. It was attended by some of London’s most influential design and architectural stakeholders, including Sir Terence Conran and Sir Nicholas Grimshaw.

To join our campaign to rebuild one of our greatest architectural and design icons, visit www.rebuildtheskylon.com and vote for where you think it should be sited.

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