Anish Kapoor's Olympic Orbit tower unveiled


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The Independent Culture

The UK's tallest sculpture was officially unveiled today at Stratford's Olympic Park.

The twisting red tower standing at 376ft (114.5m) next to the Olympic Stadium is "awkward" and "beautiful," its designer Anish Kapoor said.

The Turner Prize-winning artist, who created the ArcelorMittal Orbit with structural designer Cecil Balmond, also said the £15 entrance price for adults and £7 for children during the Games should come down after 2012.

He wants a "more democratic" price, saying those figures are "a hell of a lot of money".

Andrew Altman, chief executive of the London Legacy Development Corporation, which is in charge of securing the future of the Olympic Park, said a lower post-Games pricing system is being figured out.

Mr Kapoor said that he thinks it is beautiful but added: "I think it is awkward. It has its elbows sticking out. In a way it refuses any singular capture.

"It refuses to be an emblem.

"It is unsettling and I think that is part of this thing of beauty."

Visitors will be able to look down to the showpiece stadium from the latest landmark to London's skyline.

The twisting tangle of steel, which looks as if it is going to fall over, is not only the tallest sculpture in the UK but also 72ft (22m) taller than the Statue of Liberty.

The cutting-edge tower, dubbed "the Hubble Bubble" by London mayor Boris Johnson because of its resemblance to a shisha pipe, is intended to help make the Olympic Park in Stratford, east London, a must-see attraction long after the 2012 Games have ended.

It has two observation floors, a 455-step spiral staircase, lift and restaurant.

The idea is to go up in the lift and walk down the staircase and take in the views and artistic tricks designed in by Mr Kapoor.

He accepts that it may be controversial and not to everyone's liking.

He said: "I think controversy is OK - it is part of the deal really.

"We have tried to open territory for ourselves and hopefully in so doing a whole question about what this type of tower form can be.

"I am sure there are other possibilities but this is the one that we thought was right."

The tower could have been nearer 200m tall under the original plans by the creative duo, but "very harsh budget realities" and the practicalities of a projected million people a year moving through it resulted in changes, according to Mr Kapoor.

It was 180m in the first sketch and 140m by the time of the early presentations, Mr Balmond recalled.

The tower uses 19th century physical technology but could have been built without modern-day understanding of the forces and construction involved.

Mr Kapoor noted: "Cecil is also a very clever man. The four people who pieced it together could do so because Cecil designed the structure in such a way that one (piece of) steel and the next piece come down in the right position and because of it you need no scaffolding."

People who have tickets to sports events at the Olympic Park or who have bought a ticket to get into the grounds during the Games could also visit the tower.

It is set to open after the Games as a visitor attraction, with ticketed viewing from the observation decks, and as a venue for private functions from around Easter 2014.

It is made from 60% scrap metal from an idea that originated in a cloakroom at the Davos economic forum in 2009. This was when Mr Johnson suggested it to steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, chairman and chief executive of ArcelorMittal, as a way to build a symbol for the regeneration of east London.

ArcelorMittal, a London 2012 sponsor, is funding up to £19.6 million with the remaining £3.1 million coming from the London Development Agency.

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