April 1, 2010 / 8:28 AM / 9 years ago

Artist Kapoor wins Olympic tower competition

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A spiraling red tower, designed by Turner prize-winning artist Anish Kapoor and taller than New York’s Statue of Liberty, will soar over London’s Olympic Park as a beacon of hope, London’s mayor said.

British artist Anish Kapoor unveils a scale model of his design, the "ArcelorMittal Orbit", which is due to be installed in the Olympic Park as part of London's 2012 Olympic Games, in London, March 31, 2010. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

The 19 million pound ($29 million) tower, consisting of giant entwined steel lattice figures of eight, will largely be funded by ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel manufacturer, with the remaining three million pounds coming from the London Development Agency.

Taller than London’s Big Ben but smaller than the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the 115-meter tower is a “symbol of the dynamism of a city coming out of recession,” Mayor Boris Johnson said.

“I know very well that there will be people who say we are nuts, we are barmy in the depths of a recession to be building Britain’s biggest piece of public art, but ... we are certain that this is the right thing ...,” added Johnson, whose idea it was to host a competition to design the tower.

The permanent structure would make the east London skyline distinctive, arousing “curiosity and wonder” among Londoners and visitors, just as the Atomium “molecule” structure has for Brussels, and the Eiffel Tower for Paris, he added.

London-based Kapoor worked with structural designer Cecil Balmond, famous for his CCTV building in Beijing, to create the ArcelorMittal “Orbit.”

The pair, who have become renowned for their ambitious, large-scale public art projects, beat competition from other internationally recognized artists including Antony Gormley, famous for his “Angel of the North” sculpture.

“One of the things we have always thought about, fantasized about, is how one might rethink the tower,” Kapoor said.

“We wondered if it was possible to do something different, to perhaps make an orbit, where in some ways counter-intuitively the structure would seemingly work against itself, would not want to stand up.”

Due to be completed by the end of 2011, the Orbit will dwarf its neighbors, the main stadium and the Zaha Hadid-designed aquatics center in the south of the Olympic Park in Stratford, east London.

Spectators will be able to climb to a viewing gallery and restaurant either by lift or staircase.

Johnson said he persuaded ArcelorMittal’s boss Lakshmi Mittal, Britain’s richest man, to put up the money during a 45-second chat in the cloakroom at Davos, the annual meeting of world and economic leaders.

Mittal, who has an estimated fortune of 10.8 billion pounds, and lives in London, said the city would have a “bold, beautiful and magnificent sculpture that also showcases the great versatility of steel.”

The landmark, which Johnson predicted would be baptized the “helter skelter, a hubble bubble, or trombone” will need planning permission.

Editing by Steve Addison

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