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Orbit tower joins London skyline

Construction work has begun on Anish Kapoor’s 115m-high Orbit tower for the 2012 Olympics in east London

Designed as a landmark for the Olympic Park in Stratford, the crimson observation tower is expected to complete in time for the opening of the games.

Sponsored by ArcelorMittal, the £19 million structure is constructed from pre-fabricated steel components and features a giant fibreglass canopy at its base.

Artist Anish Kapoor and engineer Cecil Balmond designed the project in tandem with Ushida Findlay Architects.

Boris Johnson rubber stamped the project in August 2010.

Previous story (25.08.11)

Green light for Kapoor’s red 2012 Orbit tower

Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond’s controversial 2012 ArcelorMittal Orbit project has been given the green light by planners

The 115m-high observation tower is intended as a landmark for the Olympic Park at Stratford in East London.

The proposal, which has been designed in tandem with Ushida Findlay Architects, was approved in principle last night by the Olympic Development Authority’s (ODA) planning committee. The plans must now go before Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, who is expected to rubber stamp the £19 million project.

A spokesperson for project-backer ArcelorMittal said: ‘We are pleased that the ArcelorMittal Orbit has passed this stage of the planning process and we are excited to be a step closer to building what we believe is a great testament to the energy, ambition and spirit which characterises London and the people who live here.’

CABE hit out at the proposal earlier this month, criticising the detailing of the entrance pavilion and plant compound (see below).

Responding to CABE’s comments, project engineers Arup wrote to the ODA’s planning decisions team to explain the designs.

The letter reads: ‘The design team for the ArcelorMittal Orbit have conceived the scheme as “Gesamtkunstwerk” or total work of art.

‘Unpinning [sic] this concept is the notion that the scheme is a synthesis of art, engineering, spatial design and architecture and that all elements of the piece which include the plant compound and pavilion form etc form an integral part of the experience of the ArcelorMittal Orbit.

‘The space beneath the canopy is conceived as a void which is dark and ominous. The rectilinear forms of the plant compound and pavilion reflect and ensure that this experience is created since the two buildings through their form and materials feel detached and unrelated reinforcing the notion of darkness.’

Read the full letter


Previous story (09.08.10)

CABE airs concerns over 2012 Orbit project

CABE has hit out at plans to build a 115-metre high observation tower near the Olympic Park in Stratford claiming the controversial scheme could be ‘severely compromised’ without further detailed design work

A CABE spokesman said it was important - especially given the tight deadline for completion - that the structure of the ArcelorMittal Orbit tower matched the artistic intent of the design. The proposed landmark, which has come in for heavy criticism, has been drawn up by Anish Kapoor, Cecil Balmond and Ushida Findlay Architects.

A spokesman said: ‘[We] think the design is not yet resolved in sufficient detail to receive planning approval. In our view further work is required on the design of he entrance pavilion and plant compound, viewing platforms, lift, stairs and integration with the landscape of the Olympic Park.

‘Without this additional work the shortcomings of the Orbit as an architectural proposition will severely comprise its artistic integrity.’

The CABE also expressed concern that the requirements of operating the building as a tourist attraction, including circulation and queuing, had not been properly explored.

A final decision will be made on August 24.

To read the full design review click here

Previous decision (AJ 22.07.10)

Kapoor’s Orbit tower wins council backing

Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond’s controversial ArcelorMittal Orbit landmark for the Olympic Park in Stratford, east London has been given local authority support

Last night (21 July) Newham Council’s Strategic Development Committee agreed to back the 114m-tall tower for the 2012 Games which would become Britain’s tallest sculpture.

A planning application for the project, which has been designed in tandem with Ushida Findlay Architects, will now be decided by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA).

Paul Brickell, executive member for Olympics and Public Affairs at Newham council, said: ‘We believe it could be a crowd-pleaser and help attract visitors to Newham long after the Olympics have gone.’

The £19 million gravity-defying, deep red structure has split opinion with Ken Shuttleworth describing it as ‘[the] Wembley arch after a design review with King Kong’.

Previous story (AJ01.07.10)

Findlay coils steel escape route around Kapoor’s Olympic tower

Kathryn Findlay of Ushida Findlay Architects has introduced a ‘glowing, metallic’ secondary element to Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond’s proposed ArcelorMittal Orbit landmark for the Olympic Park in Stratford, east London

Visitors to the Orbit will enter past two ‘honest straightforward industrial buildings,’ the plant room and entrance pavilion, into a fibre-glass canopied ‘dark space’ where an escalator connects to the viewing platform.

‘It’s not a straightforward tower,’ said Findlay, whose steel-plated coil will be both the main means of escape and the exit.

Plans for a restaurant at the top of the tower have been scrapped, and construction will start once planning permission, expected in August, is received.

Daniel Bosia, Arup’s design director on the gravity-defying project, said: ‘The scheme is extraordinary simple in its principle but the application and reiteration of the principle throughout the 300m length makes it complex, not complicated.’

A report has suggested the tower could have an ‘adverse impact’ on television signals, potentially affecting 525 homes in Stratford.

Readers' comments (14)

  • looks better as a sketch.

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  • looks lyk a giant shisha pipe....quite bizzare

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  • Two questions might be asked:

    Is it beautifully elegant engineering ?
    (As Skylon or the Eiffel Tower)


    Is it art ?
    (As the Angel of the North)

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  • Apalling please stop this.

    It is basically being detailed by the engineers at Arup. Even if it was a good idea it will fall down in the execution of the detail.

    Why can't the AJ take a critical stance on this?

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  • Why don't they just put Heatherwick's expo pavilion here instead? It will need a home.

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  • same old ugly scrapmetal junk.......rubbish!!!

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  • Perhaps too complicated by half ?
    Maybe just place a viewing gallery on Marsyas ?
    I seem to remember Marsyas was quite nicely detailed ?

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  • Its Iconic, and it'll certainly be an icon for stratford wont it, how can u tell if itll be any good until its built, the eiffel tower wasnt liked when it was built but now its one of the iconic masterpieces of europe. only time will tell.

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  • 'Its Iconic,'

    need I say more

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  • Its not architecture, its a fold-out roller coaster..
    When the olympics are over they can move it to Alton Towers!

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  • Comment 1 July 2010 is indeed right that this is being detailed at Arup. Unfortunately because this is a piece of art with a viewing gallery strapped on, it's a nightmare in terms of function for access and servicing, and a nightmare structurally.
    In other words Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond have scribbled a mess and now it's being left to a team of hard-working architects and engineers to try and make it vaguely work.

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  • It's just plain ugly, no wonder the planners accepted it - not worth wasting any more words on.

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    I'm not one for generalised throw away comments, but what, mustn't speak loosely. This simply has no place in the previous or current political administration. It neither pushes the boundaries in design and innovation, nor makes consideration for the current climate of austerity. I'm baffled. Also the reference to this being likened to the Eiffel tower is misjudged...for a start it has elegance and poise, the Eiffel tower that is. 'Chronic', not 'Iconic'.'s too important to stay quiet.

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  • Poor Arups, getting paid for getting the job done.. What do you think the bookmakers are offering on it coming in on budget? I think we will need to turn down the heating at home for a few years to off-set this one in oh so many ways.. Maybe close the curtains too.
    Leading the way London.. making us all look silly!

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