IT will be Southampton’s answer to the Statue of Liberty, greeting visitors from land, sea and air.
And today the Daily Echo can reveal the preferred design for a landmark tribute to RJ Mitchell’s iconic Spitfire.
Rising up to 50 metres, it will stand as an international landmark at the entrance to the city’s waterfront.
Its size will rival Nelson’s Column and it will stand taller than the Angel of the North in Gateshead.
Plans for a Spitfire tribute were unveiled two years ago after a long-running campaign by the Daily Echo to finally honour the men and women who built and flew the Second World War fighter plane.
A national competition this summer to design the monument attracted more than 300 entries.
A design by Australian Nick Hancock, formerly with the world renowned Richard Rogers Partnership, has now been chosen from a shortlist.
Councillor John Hannides, chairman of the city’s Spitfire Tribute Foundation, said: “It was clearly a very difficult decision. The quality of the designs were very good and we’re really grateful for all the work and effort people put in.
Sorry but we are unable to provide, as promised, a link to the winning design brochure for technical reasons.
“We went through a rigorous process of assessing the feasibility of each design.
“We were delighted to select Nick Hancock’s design. We believe it represents the ambition and visions of the Spitfire tribute. He’s got an amazing passion for the Spitfire.”
Mr Hancock, a specialist in complex geometry and lightweight steel structures, said: “We’re ecstatic. We’re all so proud. Whenever we’ve shown anyone the picture everyone gets really excited about it.
“As a designer I cannot say how amazing a challenge this is. Opportunities like this are very few and far between, let alone one for such a incredible design.”
Mr Hancock’s design team includes a leading structural engineer behind projects such as the London Eye, the City of Manchester Stadium and the 2012 Olympic Stadium.
His monument will rise up from a 30m circular viewing platform inspired by The Royal Air Force roundel, with a pool of remembrance in its centre.
A map of Southampton will be embossed into the platform marking the 28 factories, workshops and garages where Spitfire was made after the Luftwaffe bombed the Southampton Supermarine factories during the Second World War.
More than 3,000 people contributed to the effort.
Around the central pool of remembrance plaques will commemorate the roundels of the 31 Allied air forces that flew the Spitfire.
A memorial to RJ Mitchell, the Spitfire’s designers, test pilots and constructors will be inscribed in the base of the giant curved steel mast that will raise a 1.5 times full-scale replica Spitfire into the skies above the city.
Both mast and plane will be clad in satin polished stainless steel, which will gleam in the sunlight and reflect against the sky.
The design has been fully costed at just under £2m for a 40-metre high structure, but could be built even taller.
Mr Hancock’s fascination with the Spitfire began as a child in Australia, when he used to build Airfix models of the plane.
“I used to hang them up with fishing line or clothes hangers to make them appear like they were flying,” he recalled.
Giving the aircraft the appearance of flight was central to his concept.
“I wanted to have something that was sweeping up above people,” he said.
“You’re going to see it from everywhere. It’s going to be visible when coming into Southampton harbour, like seeing the Statue of Liberty.”
Mr Hancock said he was in awe of RJ Mitchell’s revolutionary design, and was honoured for his design to be chosen for the tribute to the plane and all associated with the aircraft.
He said he also saw the Spitfire monument as a “seed” for regenerating the waterfront and connecting it to the city.
It will be a part of a major regeneration of Southampton’s old docks, rising up on land beside the historic Trafalgar dry dock, which lies abandoned immediately next to the new £19m Ocean Terminal.
The Spitfire monument will be built next to a proposed new Aeronautica museum and maritime attraction.
The site is just two miles from the Supermarine Aviation site where RJ Mitchell developed the aircraft.
“It’s a real opportunity to create a real focal point for Southampton,” Mr Hancock said.
As part of the prize Mr Hancock will also be able to live a boyhood dream of going up for a flight in a real life Spitfire.
More detailed work will now be done to bring the design to life.
Meanwhile, a drive to raise the cash for the monument will be stepped up.
Former premier Gordon Brown officially launched a fundraising campaign at a reception at Number 10. It has since been backed by Prime Minister David Cameron and Defence Secretary Liam Fox.
Southampton City Council earmarked £70,000 for feasibility studies to launch the project. However, no taxpayers’ cash will be spent on construction of the monument.
The Foundation aims to raise most of the £2m by the end of 2011 to begin construction to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the maiden flight of the Spitfire in 1936.
Corporate sponsors, individual donors and grant making bodies will be approached for funds.