Turner prize winning artist Anish Kapoor has mused that the £15 price tag to go up in the ArcelorMittal Orbit Tower may be a bit on the expensive side. At a preview for his Orbit tower sculpture, he stated, the price was; “a hell of a lot of money”.
The structure which was designed by Kapoor and structural designer Cecil Balmond is the tallest sculpture in the UK, twice the height of Nelson’s Column and five times the height of the Angel of the North by Antony Gormley.
By comparison the London eye costs £18.90/Child – £9.90, Blackpool Tower Eye: Adult – £12.60/Child – £9.60 and the Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth: Adult – £8.25/Child – £6.55. The Eiffel tower in Paris costs £10.50 and is one of the popular attractions in the world and far more centrally located. It is hoped the tower will help to attract 1 million visitors a year to Stratford’s Olympic Park, when it reopens as the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park after the Games. The Steel company ArcelorMittal provided £19.2m towards the cost of building the Orbit, with the remaining £3.1m being funded by London Development Agency.
With his monumental red sculpture ‘Orbit’, Kapoor creates the look of instability. It coils and flows with none of the pyramidal structure usually associated with the building of a tower. It changes as you walk around it, looking unstable as if the Helter Skelter structure could topple over at any moment. Kapoor However assures us that with the help of structural engineer Cecil Balmond the tower is safe for the thousands of visitors expected to climb the 120 meter sculpture to the viewing platform, which has created a grand new view of the London urban-scape.’We want people to forget the engineering, the construction, the materials and simply “experience” it,’ says Balmond. Visitors to the Orbit can take a lift that rises through the tower to an enclosed, high-level observation deck, returning to ground level via a helical staircase with 455 steps and after selecting the Kapoor and Balmond design, Arcelor Mittal appointed Ushida Findlay Architects to develop these components. ‘Cecil felt I had an understanding of non-rectilinear geometry,’ says Kathryn Findlay. Although the London practice’s remit included the design of the entrance pavilion, the plant compound, a ramp and a high-level external walkway, its overarching brief was to ensure that public spaces were not only habitable but also comfortable and fully integrated with the overall design, effectively transforming the sculpture into an accessible architectural experience.
Mayor Boris Johnson sees the ArcelorMittal Orbit as a structure “to arouse the curiosity and wonder of Londoners”. It may just do this and the Orbit might just be the push that London needs to kick-start architecture into fresh adventurous and new directions. Mr Kapoor, 56, said it was ‘thrilling’ to be offered the chance to create for the capital something on a par with what Gustave Eiffel made in Paris.