How We Built Britain
The Spinnaker Tower
Making its mark
What makes a landmark? Both Southampton and Portsmouth have recently had projects that aim to become new landmarks for their city, and, although they couldn't be more different, both projects shared one thing - a mixed response by the public.
Like many urban areas nationwide, Hampshire's two coastal cities have seen extensive redevelopment.
Southampton has seen the arrival of the huge West Quay shopping complex; while Portsmouth has been boosted by the success of Gunwharf Quays and the Spinnaker Tower - now a prominent landmark for miles around.
These developments are part of wider aim to create projects that put the area on the map, with spectacular landmark attractions that bring both business and visitors - and keeps them coming back.
But finding the right projects for the right area has proved trickier.
The Spinnaker Tower certainly wasn't without its critics - not least for being five years late, costing £36m and leaving the taxpayer footing a bill of more than £11m.
Nevertheless, in the wake of the Spinnaker Tower, there seems to have been a clamour for eye-catching landmarks elsewhere in the region.
Meeting the needs of the surroundings, and seeking approval from locals, shows that making a new landmark is not that easy.
In the shadow of the success of Portsmouth's Gunwharf Quays sits the neglected Southsea sea front.
Its Clarence Pier promenade has missed out on visitors since the arrival of the Spinnaker Tower, only a few minutes' walk along the shoreline.
The Solent Eye will have 40 'gondolas'
So the owner of the site in Southsea has looked to London for inspiration.
It wants to take the idea of the London Eye and transplant it to the south coast.
Portsmouth City Council is currently deciding whether to give planning permission to the giant big wheel, christened the Solent Eye.
The company behind it, Billy Manning Ltd believe that this is the answer to reviving the fortunes of Southsea.
Although not quite as big as the London Eye's 440 feet, at 180 feet high, the £2 million Solent Eye would still be a significant local landmark, dominating the low-rise skyline.
The Solent Eye will revitalise Southsea
So what can Southsea learn from the success of the London Eye? Since it opened as The Millennium Wheel in 2000, it's attracted 25 million visitors and has become an internationally recognisable symbol of London.
London Eye Communications Manager Surette Simon says: "To make any attraction work, and especially that of an observation wheel or tower, you need three things.
"They are: a central location, so it's easily accessible; sustainable tourism infrastructure; and most of all, great views.
"And it was these three things that made the London Eye so successful."
Support for the project across the city has largely been positive, but those Southsea residents who currently enjoy unrivalled views across the Solent – a view that the construction of the Solent Eye is very likely to obstruct – have more mixed views, ranging from support to complete rejection: "It will be an eyesore" said one.
Hampshire's other large coastal city, Southampton, has similarly been looking for a project to boost visitor numbers and to place it more firmly on the map.
Some locals believe that Southampton, unlike Portsmouth and its Gunwharf Quays, has failed to truly capitalise on its water-side location for the benefit of its residents.
In 2006, suggestions for a museum and viewing tower in the shape of a Spitfire wing, in homage to the war-time aircraft built in the city, met with funding difficulties.
More recently, there have been proposals for a set of lasers to poke into the night sky from the Civic Centre, in a modern-day adaptation of a lighthouse, to act as a beacon for business and reflect the city's modern, creative image.
The lasers will beam from the tower
Each of the four lasers would project from one face of the Civic Centre clock tower, creating a night time landmark that's visible from across the region.
The project would cost £250,000 and the money has been earmarked from the South East England Development Agency, specifically for an arts project.
The idea is similar to a laser beam situated in Greenwich, used there to signify the location of the Greenwich meridian time line.
But after considerable local objections from the public, and criticism in the local press, the project was finally abandoned in June 2007.
Building for the future?
Are new landmarks a 'must' for any city in the 21st Century? Are these proposals a positive indication of a city in good health? Or are they white elephants?
Do they really attract business and tourists to a city, or could the money be better spent on other public services like improving local schools or cleaning up the urban environment?
What would you like to see as a landmark for the south coast? What do you think?
last updated: 02/07/07
Have Your Say
What's your view on local landmarks? Does Southampton need a Laser Gateway? Will the Solent Eye be good for Southsea? Let us know your views.