King Kong’s plan to return as iconic sculpture sought in new skyscraper project

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Birmingham’s King Kong statue could make an emotional return as part of a ‘village in the sky’ skyscraper. The iconic artwork is sought after as the gateway to a 50-storey tower planned for Thorp Street in the city centre.

It would contain almost 500 apartments, as well as a residents’ lounge on the 48th floor containing a workspace, library, cinema, games room and garden. A restaurant and bar are proposed on the 49th floor, coupled with an observation deck on the top floor, which would be accessible to the public.

The existing building at 17 Thorp Street would be retained and used as retail space while a bike centre, gym, spa and wellness area are reserved for the first and second floors.

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But it’s the proposed return of Nicholas Monro’s famous 1972 King Kong sculpture that is the plan’s most eye-catching feature, according to BusinessLive. It was a huge favorite away from the old Bull Ring center and was later transferred to a car dealership before being purchased and transferred to Edinburgh.



CGI of what King Kong might look like outside the proposed 50-story tower.

Owner Lesley Maby has never expressed a desire to sell the imposing sculpture, despite repeated calls for it to be returned to Birmingham. It stood in a market in Scotland’s capital for decades before the site closed in 2005. But it was given new life in 2016 when it was loaned to the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds and repainted in its original hue. originally to face an exhibition commemorating the original City Sculpture program of the early 1970s.

The statue was last reported to stand in Mrs Maby’s Cumbria garden. She said in 2013: “‘I would never sell him, I love him very much, but I would consider letting him go on holiday for a while.

“He was at a market site in Scotland at Ingliston near Edinburgh for a number of years but Ingliston closed and I brought him back to Penrith Market.

“The area he was in was rented to another company, so we had to move him. He was lying on his back and I wasn’t sure what to do with him, so we took a truck and finally got him here and into my driveway.

“He’s recovered and is now retired – he’s part of the family. I thought I’d take him home because he’ll be safer here. He has a very good view of Penrith but I’m open to offers for him to holiday in Birmingham.”

A report prepared in support of the newly submitted planning application said the larger project was called “Chung Ying”. It is a Cantonese term that translates to “China and England”. The famous Chung Ying Street connected Hong Kong and Shenzhen in mainland China, signifying the close ties between England and China.



King Kong with technicians from the Mechanical Engineering Workshop at Aston University, July 1975.
King Kong with technicians from the Mechanical Engineering Workshop at Aston University, July 1975.

It was unclear whether the developer, Jewelery Quarter-based Cordia Blackswan, had approached Ms Maby about any sale or loan of Kong, or on what basis the image had been included in planning documents. The enforcement site is currently home to the former restaurant Chung Ying Garden, which closed in 2018 after being fined £30,000 for food hygiene failures.

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