Olympic Park to Get Tower ‘To Rival Eiffel’

NEW YORK | Thursday, April 1st, 2010 10:12pm EDT

Artist Anish Kapoor has won a commission to design a 115m high public artwork at Olympic Park in London, to be built as part of London’s Olympic Games in 2012. And yesterday he unveiled his design for the £19 million sculpture, a ruby red, helter skelter-style structure…

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The tower has been dubbed the 'Hubble Bubble' by London Mayor Boris Johnson. Photo: ARUP

Artist Anish Kapoor has won a commission to design a 115m high public artwork at Olympic Park in London, to be built as part of London’s Olympic Games in 2012. And yesterday he unveiled his design for the £19 million sculpture, a ruby red, helter skelter-style structure that will stand more than twice as tall as Nelson’s column.

It was instantly nicknamed ‘the Eyeful Tower’ by London Mayor Boris Johnson to a giant ‘hubble-bubble’ shisha pipe.

But contributors to Twitter and similar internet sites took only minutes to criticise the work. One described it as ‘a rollercoaster that costs £19 million a go’. Other early phrases included ‘twisted spaghetti’, ‘horrific squiggles’ and ‘Meccano on crack’.

The sculpture, officially called ArcelorMittal Orbit, has been designed in collaboration with structural engineer Cecil Balmond of Arup, will feature a restaurant and viewing platform. About 700 visitors an hour will be able to visit the site next to the 193 feet high Olympic stadium.

“It would have boggled the minds of the Romans. It would have boggled Gustave Eiffel.  “I believe it will be worthy of London’s Olympic and Paralympic Games, and worthy of the greatest city on earth, ” Boris Johnson said.

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Britian's biggest piece of public art: At 115 metres high, the steel tower will be taller than the Statue of Liberty in New York. Photo: ARUP

The Eiffel Tower was itself the winner of a competition to mark the 1889 World Fair. The tower will be comprised of a series of loops, constructed of steel pipes formed into a lattice made up of triangular sections.

Anish Kapoor said: “It’s a long winding spiral: a folly that aspires to go even above the clouds and has something mythic of it”. He promised it would give those who climbed it “a truly spectacular view of London”.

Cecil Balmond, deputy chairman of engineering firm Arup, worked with Kapoor on the concept. He said: “The opening comment to me was ‘Boris Johnson is looking for an icon to match the Eiffel Tower.’ So of course that was irresistible to me.”

“We wanted to see if we could create a structure that seemed unstable, seemed to be propping itself up,” he said. “So, we’ve slowly evolved a form that seems to be teetering, weaving itself, a loop.”

He also said that Mr Johnson had mentioned the idea to him during a fleeting meeting “in a cloakroom in Davos last year.” He were both on our way to separate dinner engagements so we had only a few moments to discuss it.

“But I was immediately interested because I remember the great excitement felt throughout the city when it was announced that London had been selected,” Cecil Balmond added. He described the project as “an incredible opportunity to build something really spectacular for London” that “will play a lasting role in the legacy of the Games.”

The tower is budgeted to cost £19.1 million, said Mr Johnson, with £16 million of the cost being covered by Mr Mittal and the remaining £3.1 million from the Greater London Authority.

Mr Johnson said: “I know very well there will be people who will say , ‘You are nuts, you are bonkers, in the depths of a recession, to be building Britain’s largest piece of public art.’ But both Tessa [Jowell] and I have said that this is the right thing for Stratford, for the games and beyond.”

He added: “If Paris can have the Eiffel Tower, then we thought the Olympic site had to have  something. “I can’t say yet what the public will choose to baptise this structure. Some may say it’s the world’s biggest representation of a shisha pipe.” [via DailyMail (UK) and Telegraph (UK)]

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