WITH a cutting-edge design paying homage to the sweeping bows of ocean liners, it has become a landmark in a city defined by its maritime links.

Launched to sail in the wake of the centenary of the Titanic disaster, the city’s £15m SeaCity museum opened a year ago amid great fanfare.

But critics feared visitors would melt away once interest in the tragedy waned, lumbering the city with a costly white elephant.

Yet city bosses say it has been full steam ahead with an even brighter horizon, boasting higher than expected visitor numbers and a clutch of design awards.

One year on 143,000 visitors have passed through its doors, busting its target by more than 20,000.

City leisure boss Councillor Warwick Payne said: “I think that is partially down to the commitment of the staff but also with the fact that the Titanic story is one that is well worth telling and as a city one we should remember.

“The key now is to build on that success and keep people coming back.”

Customer feedback shows that 78 per cent of people would return to the museum, but Cllr Payne said that should not be taken for granted.

“A lot of people came to view the Titanic exhibition but you have to ask the question will people keep coming back if you do not change?” he said.

To keep its spot as the city’s number one visitor attraction, curators are now planning to host major national exhibitions.

This will include a stunning exhibition of artwork from paper, called the First Cut. Proving paper has pulling power, all manner of sculptures are made by cutting, twisting and carving.

It has made waves in the art world and will be making its debut in the south as it moves straight from Manchester Art Gallery.

Heritage exhibitions may include a 50th anniversary of Southampton winning its city status in 2014 plus a series of events around the 600th anniversary of Agincourt, the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and 50 years of production of the Ford Transit in Southampton.

Visitor Nicholas Ward, a 49-yearold descendant of Titanic survivor George Kemish, a fireman working in the ship’s engine room, said the museum was an asset to the city.

He said: “It is part of what makes Southampton what it is and without having made that statement it would be denying our heritage.”

His two sons Henry, 9, and William, 7, helped cut the museum’s first anniversary cake at a ceremony yesterday, attended by Southampton mayor and mayoress, Cllr Derek and Christine Burke.

William said: “My favourite bits were the stoking bit because my great-grandfather’s name is on it.

“The games are also good for people to learn what they had to do on the Titanic.”

Henry said: “The room with the maps showed how much Southampton was affected by the Titanic.”

The museum last month won the architectural and built environment Civic Trust Award.

It is not the first time the museum has been recognised for its design and architecture. In 2012 the museum won the Solent People’s Design Award and the building was also shortlisted for the Architects Journal Retrofit award.

It is one of 32 projects across the UK to receive one of these awards.