A city which thinks big and builds even bigger

Steve's baby daughter made amazing progress this week, or so his wife thought

STEVE CANAVAN: It was a lot of rattle over just a little roll

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Big buildings and Portsmouth go together like shingle and Southsea.

Think about it for a moment.

From 16th century Southsea Castle to the Spinnaker Tower by way of the Tricorn, this city has had, and still has, more than its fair share of architectural grandeur in one form or another.

Simply take a stroll along the prom at Eastney, look inland and gaze at the sheer scale of the former Royal Marines’ barracks and its one-time parade ground. It runs virtually the full length of the building and is probably bigger than some offshore tax havens.

Today we have the Lipstick at Gunwharf Quays, the university building in the shape of a ship’s superstructure and the promise of a Son of Shard to come.

But stuck somewhere in the middle is the old Dockyard, enormous in itself, yet also containing some of the most cavernous and inspiring spaces ever created for industrial Britain.

Generations of Portsmouth families have worked in these buildings, including the dry docks in which Dreadnought battleships were constructed. To create and maintain giants of the sea required hulking great buildings. And we’ve got them in spades, most still in use.

In fact, they are so indelibly etched on our psyche that we take them for granted, passing them without a second glance.

Which brings us to Sir Ben Ainslie’s fledgling sailing factory racing up at the Camber in Old Portsmouth.

When this paper first published the computer-generated artist’s impression of the building which was planned to become the hub for Britain’s 2017 America’s Cup bid, there were some sharp intakes of breath: not only because of its futuristic design, but also because of its sheer scale.

As you can see from our picture on page 3 today, it already dwarfs the Isle of Wight car ferries.

But this is a base for big dreams and even bigger yachts – ocean-racing juggernauts which Sir Ben, and the rest of us, fervently hope can capture this blue riband trophy for the first time.

And leave us with another architectural gem.