A little more Orbit

12 04 2010

Anish Kapoor explains, briefly, the idea behind his Olympic Tower. David Sillito asks him inane questions, but it’s nice to see some 3D visualisations of the tower.

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Anish Kapoor – Orbit

8 04 2010

Anish Kapoor's 'Eiffel Tower'

Sculpture as architecture is always a thorny subject. Does a sculptor have the technical know-how that an architect does? Have they studied the fabric of construction and know about the mathematics, as well as the creativity, that goes into a building? The answer is probably not – I may be generalising here, but I think it’s a fair bet.

Great architecture is, of course, about the collaboration between many disciplines. It’s the structural engineers who tell us if what we’ve put down on paper will actually work, it’s the quantity and cost surveyors who help us bring a project into existence, the landscape architects who shape the environment around it and the all the other professions are what make a great building, well, great.

Anish Kapoor’s Olympic Tower is a staggering crimson structure that twists and turns it’s way up to 120 metres in height. It has been dubbed the British ‘Eiffel Tower’ – but can it stand up to such a comparison? The London 2012 games are, we’ve been told, Britain’s chance to put on an Olympics with a true British character: something a little quirky, a little off-the-wall. We may not have the budget China had, but we sure as hell are going to put on an ‘individual’ show. Personally, I think that’s great. There’s no reason why we can’t put on an exemplary games with a smaller budget than other countries may have at their disposal, but does that involve a £19 million steel tower? Surely the fact we are working with an increasingly diminishing budget means we should be spending our cash wisely?

The ‘ArcelorMittal Orbit’, to give it it’s full name, has been funded by Europe’s richest man – Lakshmi Mittal – a British Indian steel magnate. He has been named the 5th richest man in the world and sits atop many of the worlds most infulential, and richest companies. He’s non-executive Director of Goldman Sachs, for example – one of the major players in the worldwide financial meltdown – now there’s some kudos for a games that’s supposed to represent modern Britain on a budget. A little insensitive maybe?

All of the political and financial quips aside, does this tower fit the London Olympics? Will it serve to be the shining beacon of our games that it’s supposed to be? There’s no doubt that the East London site the Olympics is calling its home is in need of regeneration, and that anything that can last past those few summer weeks when the games actually take place is a bonus, but I’m unsure whether the Orbit will have longevity.

The Eiffel Tower, of course, was never supposed to live past 1909, but has managed to become an iconic landmark of Paris. Similarly, the Eiffel Tower was met with the same sorts of criticism to that of the ArcelorMittal Orbit – maybe then, I’m being shortsighted. Maybe this tower will define the games in 2012 and will serve as a lasting memory of modern Britain’s creativity and ingenuity. Once I get up in that lift to the viewing platform and have a look for myself, I’ll decide. For now I’m on the fence – a colossal expense, but who knows, maybe it will become one of the landmarks of London?