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'Mind boggling' artwork that will tower over London

John Hall
Wednesday 31 March 2010 17:35 BST

Plans for what will become Britain's largest piece of public art were today unveiled by Mayor of London Boris Johnson.

The Anish Kapoor designed tower will sit in London's Olympic park and, standing at 115 metres, will be nearly 20 metres taller than the Big Ben clock tower and more than double the height of Nelson's Column. It is being hailed as London's answer to the Eiffel tower and aims to make the Olympics site a permanent visitor attraction.

The Arcelormittal Orbit, named after steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal who is partially funding the project, consists of almost 1,000 tonnes of tubular steel in a continuously looping lattice which visitors will be able to climb. The lattice is made up of eight strands winding into each other and combined by rings like a jagged knot. It will have two indoor 984ft (300m) viewing platforms, and a visitor pavilion at the base will include an educational exhibition.

Lakshmi Mittal, Chairman and CEO of ArcelorMittal, will fund up to £16million of the £19.1 million project, with the outstanding £3.1 million provided by the London Development Agency.

Anish Kapoor said one of his design references was the Tower of Babel. "There is a kind of medieval sense to it of reaching up to the sky, building the impossible. A procession, if you like. It's a long winding spiral: a folly that aspires to go even above the clouds and has something mythic about it."

"He has taken the idea of a tower and transformed it into a piece of modern British art", said Boris Johnson. "It would have boggled the minds of the Romans. It would have boggled Gustave Eiffel."

Johnson also insisted the tower would be a money-making venture as well as providing a "perfect iconic cultural legacy". He said: "We think we will be amply recouped after Games-time from the proceeds of renting out a very attractive dining facility at the top. It will be a corporate money-making venture."

Baroness Ford, chairman of the Olympic Park Legacy Company which is in charge of development and legacy at the park after the 2012 Games, said: "When you are able to combine an industry leader with a world-renowned artist, supported by significant investment, we clearly see the significance of the Olympic Park.

London 2012 chairman Lord Coe added: "Our ambitions for the Games are very clear and very simple. We want to leave a lasting legacy - of more young people playing sport, of changing public attitudes towards disabilities through the Paralympic Games, of an extraordinarily transformed landscape in east London, in which this impressive sculpture will play a central role.

"The new sculpture will be an indelible memory, a declaration of legacy and a definable landmark that Londoners and people from around the world will enjoy visiting during the Games and long afterwards."

Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota plus Julia Peyton-Jones and Hans Ulrich Obrist, of the Serpentine Gallery, were among the advisory panel of arts and design experts. They were backed by the London Mayor and the Olympics Minister.

Public space at the venue will be on two levels with each level having a 150-person capacity. Designers believe the area could cater for about 700 people per hour.

The plan is for work to begin soon with a completion date of December 2011.

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