Jay Merrick: A meeting of minds, a monumental vision

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The Independent Culture

The Orbit Tower reflects a meeting of two of the boldest minds in British art. Anish Kapoor's ability to create conceptually astonishing works is proven. Cecil Balmond's role is less well known, but he is the genie whose geometrical alchemy has influenced projects as diverse as Kapoor's 2002 Marsyas installation in Tate Modern, Daniel Libeskind's V&A Spiral, and Toyo Ito's Serpentine Gallery Pavilion.

Balmond, vice-president of the engineers Arup, is a cultural polymath who in a few minutes' conversation will connect algorithms, Schumann Quartets, obscure Tanzanian guitar bands, and the motility of malignant cells. Kapoor and Balmond explored the idea of tangled orbits, modelling shapes in wax and rendering them structural via computer programs developed by Arup's "Advanced Geometry Unit".

Kapoor describes the structure as having medieval, Tower of Babel-like qualities. Balmond talks about two orbiting spheres morphing into a twisted rope, some of whose strands break free from the overall form. The tower will meet the ground at three points. Though its asymmetry suggests structural risk, its weight, and play of bending and thrusting forces, will be precisely balanced.