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Kapoor and Balmond's Orbit welcomes first guests

Britain’s tallest sculpture, the ArcelorMittal Orbit welcomed its first guests on 11 May, 2012 writes Felix Mara

Designed by sculptor Anish Kapoor and concept structural engineer Cecil Balmond, with Ushida Findlay Architects and executive structural engineer Arup, the tower was initiated by Mayor of London Boris Johnson and funded by the world’s largest steelwork manufacturer, ArcelorMittal.

The structure’s 1,500 tonnes of steelwork is 63 per cent recycled and symbolically imported from ArcelorMittal manufactories all over the world.

The Orbit rises 114.5 metres to provide views across the Olympic Park towards London and beyond and down to the Olympic Stadium’s field of play. Its circular viewing platforms is lined with concave magnifying mirrors.

An inverted skew conical steel canopy meets arriving visitors who then view the RAL 3003-painted steel diagrid surrounding them through lift-car portholes as they ascend to the summit.

Descent from the tower is via a spiralling staircase with graded mesh cladding.

Kapoor said: ‘It’s awkward, but beautiful. Its elbows stick out and it refuses to be an emblem. It keeps unsettling. Some will like it, some will hate it- it’s in the nature of the project.’  

Balmond added that a concrete structure might have been a possibility and that the diagrid forms an orbit that turns and gathers strength from each loop

Arup structural dynamics expert Dan Powell said: ‘This structure’s response to wind forces could have been quite lively. The central diagrid column surrounding the lift shafts and the 40-tonne high-level tuned mass damper give the structure its stiffness.’

The ArcelorMittal Orbit on the Olympic Park in London

The ArcelorMittal Orbit on the Olympic Park in London

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