Spinnaker Tower

Coordinates: 50°47′44.22″N 1°06′30.86″W / 50.7956167°N 1.1085722°W / 50.7956167; -1.1085722
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Spinnaker Tower
The Spinnaker Tower
Alternative namesMillennium Tower
General information
TypeObservation tower
LocationGunwharf Quays
Portsmouth, England, UK
Coordinates50°47′44.22″N 1°06′30.86″W / 50.7956167°N 1.1085722°W / 50.7956167; -1.1085722
Construction started2001
Opened18 October 2005
Cost£35.6 million
Antenna spire170 m (560 ft)
Roof110 m (360 ft)
Top floor105 m (344 ft)
Technical details
Floor count4 floors
Design and construction
Architect(s)HGP Greentree Allchurch Evans
DeveloperThe Millennium Commission
Structural engineerScott Wilson
Halcrow Yolles
Main contractorMowlem
Spinnaker Tower at night in 2005.

The Spinnaker Tower is a 170-metre (560 ft) landmark observation tower in Portsmouth, England. It is the centrepiece of the redevelopment of Portsmouth Harbour, which was supported by a National Lottery grant. The tower's design was chosen by Portsmouth residents from a selection of three different designs in a 1998 public poll.[5] It has three viewing platforms one on top of the other at heights of 100 m, 105 m and 110 m.

The tower was designed by local firm HGP Architects and engineering consultants Scott Wilson and built by Mowlem. The Spinnaker Tower reflects Portsmouth's maritime history through its design and is named after a spinnaker, a type of sail that balloons outward.[6] The tower was opened on 18 October 2005.

The tower is owned by Portsmouth City Council and is operationally managed by Continuum Leading Attractions, a cultural attractions group based in York. Continuum also runs five other visitor attractions across the country.

The Spinnaker Tower was repainted and rebranded as the "Emirates Spinnaker Tower" from July 2015 following a five-year commercial sponsorship deal with Dubai-based Emirates airline. The Emirates sponsorship deal expired in 2020 and the tower reverted to its original all-white paint scheme and name in April 2021. On 5 May 2023, it was announced that Macmillan Cancer Support would become the tower's new sponsor beginning in June.


At a height of 560 feet (170 m), the tower is one of the tallest accessible structures in the United Kingdom outside London. The tower is visible around Portsmouth, changing the horizon of the area. It can be seen from the Isle of Wight, the Manhood Peninsula, Highdown Gardens and Cissbury Ring in Worthing and Nine Barrow Down in the Purbeck Hills, Dorset.

The tower represents sails billowing in the wind, a design accomplished using two large, white, sweeping metal arcs, which give the tower its spinnaker sail design. The steelwork was fabricated by Butterley Engineering. At the top is a triple observation deck, providing a 360° view of the city of Portsmouth, the Langstone and Portsmouth harbours, and a viewing distance of 37 kilometres (23 mi). The highest of the three observation platforms, the Sky Deck, has only a wire mesh roof, so visitors are open to the elements. The windows extend above head height, so it is not possible to get a view unobstructed by glass. A glass floor is located on the first viewing deck at 100 metres above sea level. It has three viewing platforms one on top of the other at heights of 100 m, 105 m and 110 m. The tower has a design lifetime of 80 years.[7]


Portsmouth's Millennium Tower, as it was originally intended to be named, was a project conceived in 1995 to design a monument to commemorate the Millennium celebrations in the year 2000.[8] It received UK National Lottery funding and was intended to open in late 1999.[9][10]

A choice of three different Millennium Tower designs were presented to the people of Portsmouth for a public poll in early 1998.

  • Spinnaker, three observation decks incorporated within the top of a spinnaker sail-shaped truss structure, supported by conjoined twin towers that narrowed to a pinnacle at the top.[11]
  • Globe, a multi-floor transparent observation globe supported by twin support columns on opposing sides of the globe.[12]
  • Triple, three towers in a narrow triangular formation, the towers linked together by trusses. A tallest of the three towers (with a funnel-like top) giving access to offset observation decks supported by the two shorter towers.[13]

The poll was undertaken by Portsmouth City Council in conjunction with Portsmouth's local newspaper, The News between 11 February 1998 and 23 February 1998. The total number of votes received were 9,476, with 65% of the votes selecting Spinnaker, a design by local architects Hedley Greentree Associates Ltd.[14]

Due to political, financial, contractual and construction problems and extra funding requests by the builders Mowlem, construction did not begin until 2001 and was completed in mid-2005. Because of the six-year delay in opening and not having been ready for the Millennium as planned, the tower was renamed Spinnaker Tower instead, the design name it had been called in the 1998 public poll.

The overall development project was over budget, with the tower costing £35.6 million alone. Taxpayers were never intended to fund the tower, but Portsmouth City Council eventually contributed £11.1 million towards construction.

In March 2004, Portsmouth Council's former leader Cllr Leo Madden resigned as leader of the Labour Group on the council after a highly critical report of the council's handling of the project and its failure to exploit revenue opportunities, such as the Millennium. Barry Smith, the project's legal advisor, also retired after being suspended on full pay,[15] mostly because of controversy over the contract with the builders, which at one point would have cost the council more to cancel than to complete.

The Spinnaker Tower has suffered from a number of issues since opening, including a malfunctioning external glass lift.[16] During the final construction phase, a protester from the rights group Fathers 4 Justice scaled the tower wearing a high-visibility jacket and unfurling a banner in the process.[17] Another incident happened a year later when a base jumper managed to get past site security and jumped off the Tower; he quickly ran off site after parachuting down.[18]

The tower was dedicated on 16 October 2005 and opened two days later. On opening day, the tower's project manager, David Greenhalgh, and representatives of Mowlem and Maspero were stranded in its malfunctioning external lift (built by Maspero) for an hour and a half. Abseiling engineers were called to rescue them.[19][20][21] David Greenhalgh said "It is personally very embarrassing as project manager and is very disappointing and upsetting".[22] Some, including the franchise's chief executive, felt it was rather fitting that these particular people had been trapped.[23] The external lift was removed during December 2012.

Once open, the tower attracted crowds in excess of expectations, despite only the internal lift working, with more than 600,000 people visiting it in the first year.[24] It is one of a number of observation towers around the world that have become popular, including Vancouver's Harbour Centre, Toronto's CN Tower, Blackpool's Tower, New York City's One World Trade Center (as well as the original Twin Towers) and Shanghai's Oriental Pearl Tower.

In June 2006, the local press raised a concern that the tower might be forced to close. All public buildings in the UK require disabled access under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. With the external lift inoperative and only a single internal lift and stairs available as emergency escape routes, disabled people were not allowed to access the tower if they would be unable to use the stairs because a minimum of two escape routes are required by law.[25] This problem was rectified by investing in an evacuation chair and training staff to use it. In the event of evacuation, should the internal lift be inoperable, those unable to navigate the 570 steps can use the evacuation chair.

The Spinnaker Tower, being a landmark of southern England, features in the title sequence of the BBC South Today news programme. It also features on ITV News.

In June 2009, the tower's operators succeeded in gaining permission for a freefall ride to be attached.[26] It opened to the public in June 2018 and featured a bungee jump freefall into a crash net.

In 2006, the tower won the RICS Project of the Year award and the RICS Regeneration award.[27]

Commercial sponsorship with Emirates (2015–2020)[edit]

The tower being painted blue in 2015 when it was being sponsored by Emirates. Note the gold paint had not been painted on the tower yet

In May 2015, as part of a wider effort to "generate additional revenue by using the advertising potential of council-owned land and other assets", Portsmouth City Council proposed selling the tower's naming rights to a commercial sponsor.[28][29] The proposed sponsorship deal would include the naming rights for the tower for at least five years, repainting and rebranding the tower in the sponsor's choice of colours and logos and new signage to be installed "no later than July 17" ahead of the 2015 America's Cup World Series. Dubai-based airline Emirates was reported to be the favoured sponsor, with the tower to be renamed as the Emirates Spinnaker Tower.[30][31]

On 5 June 2015, the city council confirmed that Emirates had been secured as the sponsor.[32] Councillor Luke Stubbs said: "It's clearly a very good deal for the city and shows the benefit that Portsmouth is deriving from the America’s Cup... This also associates Portsmouth with a global brand and that can only be a good thing."[33] The tower was to be repainted in a red and white colour scheme—similar to that of local football rivals Southampton F.C.—as part of the rebranding but following a petition with over 10,000 signatures, Portsmouth City Council decided to rethink the change.[34][35] Portsmouth City Council leader Donna Jones said: "We are working up a new design for the tower [which] will reflect the city’s heritage... I don’t want a tower in the city [that] no one likes the look of."[36] The new design, unveiled on 19 June 2015, featured a blue, gold and white colour scheme. Tim Clark, President and CEO of Emirates said: "We listened to the feedback and worked with the council to adapt the designs in order to create something that Portsmouth residents will be proud of."[37] In April 2021 the tower was repainted its original all-white colour, as the five year sponsorship deal with Emirates had ended on 30 June 2020.[38]

On 5 May 2023, Portsmouth City Council announced a new partnership with the Macmillan Cancer Support, with the charity becoming the tower's new sponsor beginning in June. Unlike the previous Emirates sponsorship, the tower will not be repainted or renamed, it will just see the charity's logo on one of the tower's legs and the main sign to the entrance. The deal will allow the charity to hold fundraising events at the tower.[39]



See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Spinnaker Tower". CTBUH Skyscraper Center.
  2. ^ "Emporis building ID 101061". Emporis. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015.
  3. ^ "Spinnaker Tower". SkyscraperPage.
  4. ^ Spinnaker Tower at Structurae
  5. ^ "Nineteen years on - the story behind how the Spinnaker Tower design was chosen".
  6. ^ "Spinnaker Tower Also known as Portsmouth Millenium Tower". Skyscraper News. 8 December 2012. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
  7. ^ LUSAS, 4 November 2005. Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth. Retrieved 17 September 2006.
  8. ^ Journey – http://wearejourney.co.uk. "History and Construction – Emirates Spinnaker Tower". Spinnakertower.co.uk. Retrieved 20 January 2018. {{cite web}}: External link in |author= (help)
  9. ^ Payne, Stewart (19 October 2005). "Red faces over Portsmouth's showcase project, £12 million over budget and six years late". The Telegraph. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  10. ^ Journey – http://wearejourney.co.uk. "History and Construction – Emirates Spinnaker Tower". Spinnakertower.co.uk. Retrieved 20 January 2018. {{cite web}}: External link in |author= (help)
  11. ^ "Nineteen years on – the story behind how the Spinnaker Tower design was chosen".
  12. ^ "Nineteen years on – the story behind how the Spinnaker Tower design was chosen".
  13. ^ "Nineteen years on – the story behind how the Spinnaker Tower design was chosen".
  14. ^ "Nineteen years on – the story behind how the Spinnaker Tower design was chosen".
  15. ^ Staff writers (18 October 2005). "Spinnaker opens five years late". BBC News. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
  16. ^ Staff writers (20 May 2008). "City's troubled tower lift shuts". BBC News. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
  17. ^ Staff writers (30 December 2004). "Father's rights man scales tower". BBC News.
  18. ^ Staff writers (12 August 2005). "Parachutist jumps from Spinnaker". BBC News.
  19. ^ Staff writers (16 October 2005). "Troubled Spinnaker given blessing". BBC News. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
  20. ^ Staff writers (18 October 2005). "Council boss trapped in Spinnaker". BBC News. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
  21. ^ "Spinnaker's big day hit by a towering calamity". Portsmouth Today. 18 October 2005. Archived from the original on 4 January 2007. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
  22. ^ "Red faces over Portsmouth's showcase project, £12 million over budget and six years late".
  23. ^ "Red faces over Portsmouth's showcase project". The Daily Telegraph. London. 19 October 2005. Retrieved 28 April 2006.
  24. ^ "Spinnaker Tower". Mott MacDonald. Archived from the original on 12 November 2007. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
  25. ^ "Closure threat to Spinnaker Tower". Portsmouth Today. 4 July 2006. Retrieved 3 March 2011.
  26. ^ "Spinnaker Tower freefall plan approved". Portsmouth News. 29 June 2009. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
  27. ^ "Portsmouth Spinnaker Tower (Regeneration Winner 2006)". RICS. Archived from the original on 5 March 2014. Retrieved 26 October 2007.
  28. ^ "Spinnaker Tower set for commercial rebrand". BBC News. 3 June 2015. Retrieved 5 June 2015.
  29. ^ "Spinnaker Tower sponsor to be revealed". The News. Portsmouth. 4 June 2015. Retrieved 5 June 2015.
  30. ^ Bannister, Sam (5 June 2015). "Airline giant Emirates lined up as Spinnaker Tower sponsor". The News. Portsmouth. Retrieved 5 June 2015.
  31. ^ "Portsmouth City Council are set to sell the naming rights for the Spinnaker Tower to airline Emirates". Southern Daily Echo. Southampton. 5 June 2015. Retrieved 5 June 2015.
  32. ^ "Spinnaker Tower rebranded with name of sponsor Emirates". BBC News. 5 June 2015. Retrieved 5 June 2015.
  33. ^ Bannister, Sam (5 June 2015). "Airline giant Emirates is Spinnaker Tower sponsor". The News. Portsmouth. Retrieved 5 June 2015.
  34. ^ "Portsmouth Spinnaker Tower to turn colour of arch rivals Southampton". ITV News. 5 June 2015. Retrieved 5 June 2015.
  35. ^ "Portsmouth City Council are set to sell the naming rights for the Spinnaker Tower to airline Emirates". Southern Daily Echo. Southampton. 5 June 2015. Retrieved 5 June 2015.
  36. ^ O'Leary, Miles (8 June 2015). "Pompey fans hail rethink over Emirates Spinnaker Tower red and white design a 'victory for common sense'". The News. Portsmouth. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  37. ^ "Spinnaker Tower branding: New design revealed by council". BBC News. 19 June 2015. Retrieved 19 June 2015.
  38. ^ "Portsmouth's Spinnaker Tower to return to original white colour as deal ends". BBC. 23 November 2020. Retrieved 25 April 2021.
  39. ^ "Portsmouth's Spinnaker Tower and Macmillan Cancer Support to join forces". 5 May 2023.
  40. ^ Wave 105 Retrieved 22 March 2009.
  41. ^ Annie Nightingale. "Spinnaker Tower show". BBC Radio 1. Retrieved 1 March 2011.
  42. ^ "Children in Need: Pudsey up and down the Tower!". BBC Hampshire. November 2006. Retrieved 4 March 2011.
  43. ^ "Caroline Dinenage to abseil down Spinnaker". ITV News Meridian. 6 May 2014. Retrieved 11 February 2022.

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