Monday, 5 April 2010

That Olympic Legacy... size isn't everything!

Updated July 1st: according to today's Architects' Journal, there is to be an addition. Yes I know, you didn't think the lily could be gilded, but it seems so... the rooftop caff has been abandoned, and a new Kathryn Findlay designed shiny coily thing will now snake around the structure and apparently glow.  Yes the article is accompanied by a load of archibollocks. Naturally you can only read the AJ if you hand over a shedload of spondoolicks, so that probably means many reading this also won't be able to see the pictures of this latest gewgaw.  Naturally you won't be reading to the end of this post where somehow (for academic research purposes) as a PS there seems somehow to have snuck in an extract...

The Tower of Babel was apparently a reference, according to Kapoor...

Last week saw the publication of plans for another of the 'regenerative' efforts which those spending quadzillions of pounds of our cash (and robbing many a genuine good cause by the diversion of Heritage Lottery and other funding to this two-week sports bonaza/bore, depending on your viewpoint) wish us to believe will be of lasting benefit to the nation.

This is the ArcelorMittal Orbit by Anish Kapoor. No doubt in time the title will be shortened and it will become affectionately known as The Arse. Before it is even begun, the press bumph released tells us that of course it will be 'iconic', so who are we, gentle readers, to doubt it? I don't know if it's really architecture as I haven't studied the plans sufficiently to see if it will be connected to the drains, but there's certainly been enough hype about it to be a worthy contender for this humble blog, and it is claimed it's a building.

Press Release excerpts, courtesy of Dezeen:

The ArcelorMittal Orbit set to become UK’s largest sculpture.

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson and Lakshmi Mittal, Chairman and CEO of ArcelorMittal, today unveiled the artist and design chosen to create a spectacular new visitor attraction in the Olympic Park.

Pass the sick bag, Boris... no idea whose cheek your tongue was in when sanctioning your involvement in this classic example of the genre, cliched and with adjective overload. You cannot be seeeerious!

Award winning London-based artist Anish Kapoor has been given the commission of a lifetime to design the spectacular new public attraction in the Olympic Park. The stunning artwork, to be entitled ‘The ArcelorMittal Orbit’, will ensure the Park remains an unrivalled visitor destination following the 2012 Games, providing the key Olympic legacy Mayor of London Boris Johnson envisaged for the East End.

Still awake?

The breathtaking sculpture – thought to be the tallest in the UK – will consist of a continuous looping lattice of tubular steel. Standing at a gigantic 115m, it will be 22m taller than the Statue of Liberty in New York and offer unparalleled views of the entire 250 acres of the Olympic Park and London’s skyline from a special viewing platform. Visitors will be able to take a trip up the statuesque structure in a huge lift and will have the option of walking down the spiralling staircase.

And yes, there is a diagram to show just how tall it will be, alongside other structures which can genuinely be called 'icons' (no of course I'm not suggesting you are being manipulated to consider it is worthy of such company e'en before this huge erection is - er - erected...)

According to the Telegraph:

Olympic Park to get tower 'to rival Eiffel'

First London stole the 2012 Olympics from under Paris's delicately upturned nose. Now, it seems, the capital is stealing the concept of her Eiffel Tower as well.

For the Olympic Park is to get a mini-Eiffel at the behest of Boris Johnson, the mayor of London.

400ft high – admittedly a little shy (yes, just a little... but hey, it's the Torygraph, and we can't allow those Frenchies to have something bigger and better, can we now?) of the Paris landmark's 1,063ft, but higher than the Statue of Liberty – the Olympic tower will resemble a giant ampersand of coiled metal.

Encompassing a spiral staircase, the folly is the brainchild of Anish Kapoor, the artist who recently staged a sell-out exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts...

Still, we as a nation aren't stumping up all the cash, hence the name... Thankfully, it would seem that in a spirit of unbounded public generosity and not in the cause of worldwide publicity, dismiss that thought at once,

ArcelorMittal will fund up to £16million of the £19.1million project with the outstanding £3.1 million provided by the London Development Agency. The unveiling also marks ArcelorMittal’s announcement to become a tier two sponsor of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, to support the infrastructure and success of 2012.

Oh Boris, oh Boris oh bollocks, yer havin' a laugh and we know it!

London Mayor Boris Johnson said: ”Long after the Games are over our aim is to have a stunning spectacle in east London that will be recognised around the world. I’m thrilled that when visitors from every corner of the globe plan trips to our must see attractions they will now eagerly include the ArcelorMittal Orbit! It will be an internationally acclaimed family attraction and I would like to thank Mr Mittal for his generous support. Anish Kapoor’s inspired art work will truly encapsulate the energy and spirit of London during the Games and as such will become the perfect iconic cultural legacy.”

The Torygraph has more of your gushing:

Mr Johnson helped chose the winning design from 50 submissions, after putting out a brief that he wanted a tower that was at least 100m (328ft) high to attract tourists to the Olympic Park in Stratford, east London.

Encompassing a spiral staircase, the folly is the brainchild of Anish Kapoor, the artist who recently staged a sell-out exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts. Mr Johnson helped chose the winning design from 50 submissions, after putting out a brief that he wanted a tower that was at least 100m (328ft) high to attract tourists to the Olympic Park in Stratford, east London.

Nicknaming it the "Hubble Bubble", because it looks like a giant shisha pipe, he said of Kapoor's design: "He has taken the idea of a tower, and transformed it into a piece of modern British art.

"It would have boggled the minds of the Romans. It would have boggled Gustave Eiffel.

"I believe it will be worthy of London's Olympic and Paralympic Games, and worthy of the greatest city on earth."

The tower will be comprised of a series of loops, constructed of steel pipes formed into a lattice made up of triangular sections.

Kapoor said: "It's a long winding spiral: a folly that aspires to go even above the clouds and has something mythic of it". He promised it would give those who climbed it "a truly spectacular view of London".

Cecil Balmond, deputy chairman of engineering firm Arup, worked with Kapoor on the concept. He said: "The opening comment to me was 'Boris Johnson is looking for an icon to match the Eiffel Tower.' So of course that was irresistible to me."

Those who suffer from vertigo might be advised to stay at ground level, however, according to Balmond.

"We wanted to see if we could create a structure that seemed unstable, seemed to be propping itself up," he said.

"So, we've slowly evolved a form that seems to be teetering, weaving itself, a loop."

The pair worked previously on an installation for the Tate Modern's turbine hall in 2002, a giant tubular sculpture made of blood-red PVC called the Marsyas.

The tower will be named the ArcelorMittal Orbit after the billionaire Lakshmi Mittal, who is donating 1,400 tonnes of steel for the project. He said that Mr Johnson had mentioned the idea to him during a fleeting meeting "in a cloakroom in Davos last year."  (That's right, in a cloakroom, for which presumably you can read they met in the lav, so yes, poss they are taking the pee?)

"We were both on our way to separate dinner engagements so we had only a few moments to discuss it.

"But I was immediately interested because I remember the great excitement felt throughout the city when it was announced that London had been selected."

Mr Johnson said: "I know very well there will be people who will say , 'You are nuts, you are bonkers, in the depths of a recession, to be building Britain's largest piece of public art.'  (Noooo...)

"But both Tessa [Jowell] and I have said that this is the right thing for Stratford, for the games and beyond."

He added: "If Paris can have the Eiffel Tower, then we thought the Olympic site had to have ... something. I can't say yet what the public will choose to baptise this structure. Whatever people chose to name it, he said it "represents the dynamism of a city coming out of recession".

Had the Press Release been dated 1st April, and not March 31st, then this might have been seen as a classic piece of foolery, to aid the gaiety of the nation, and stand in perpetuity alongside the Great Spaghetti Tree Hoax of 1957.  However, it would seem someone thought it OK that the nation should be allowed to consider that one T Jowell actually spake thus in some sort of seriousness:

Aaaaagggghhh indeed Tessa!

Minister for the Olympics and London Tessa Jowell said: “This stunning structure will become a new iconic London landmark towering 115 metres into the London skyline. Alongside the Olympic Stadium and Aquatics Centre, Anish Kapoor’s brilliant design will be like to honey to bees for the millions of tourists that visit London each year. Having been involved in this project from the outset, I’m now looking forward to seeing it go from a great idea into a brilliant reality.”

I see. Really buzzy, eh, Tessa? Zzzzzzzz indeed.

Tate Director Sir Nicholas Serota, who sat on the advisory panel, said: “We are delighted that Anish Kapoor with Cecil Balmond will give London a new structure which is one of the most exciting new commissions of our time. The collaboration between Anish Kapoor, Cecil Balmond and Lakshmi Mittal bridges art, architecture, engineering and business to produce a new landmark for London.”

So, that's it then... we have no choice but to accept it's going to be a great work of genius, landmark, an icon...  and no doubt vibrant to boot.

And the great artist himself, what says he?

The Tower of Babel was apparently a reference, according to Kapoor; "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."

Indeed, although, with heads above the clouds, will the paying punters be able to see anything much?

The Telegraph has a short video, worth watching (after the ad) for the small glimpse of him talking artyfartyspeak, Boris babbling, national figures making tits of themselves by pretending the Emperor has a glorious set of raiment and applauding the unveiling of the model, and a number of the Clapham omnibus persuasion giving their informed opinions.

The Beeb has another video of Kapoor talking about his masterpiece:

And here, in all its glossy glory, sent to Archibollocks so all can share the delight, thank you Anon, who was one of the lucky recipients, is the official brochure. 16 pages of Boris, the artist, and others spouting with accompanying pics,  if your stomach can stand it. If you read nothing else, read Boris's introduction; you simply couldn't begin to spoof it, it's so hilarious.

Kapoor Olympic Tower

As an antidote, I give you the views of Hugh Pearman, architecture critic of the Sunday Times


"God help us all," I wrote on first seeing the renderings of what is officially known as the ArcelorMittal Orbit. "That is by a considerable distance the worst piece of public art I have ever seen. Please stop it."...

....Conclusion: the form is terribly misconceived: a mash-up of Kapoor motifs from various of his other works, combined with a desperate attempt to shoe-horn something of the Olympic logo into the form. That would be bad enough at any scale, but then the whole thing is blown up to superscale. It gets worse: this is a sculpture that also tries to be a building. That's not the same thing as a sculptural building at all. A sculpture that tries to be a building, rather than merely referencing a building, is bound to fail...

Rowan Moore in the Observer:

...It's hard to see what the big idea is, beyond the idea of making something big, and the official blurbs don't add much light. These are full of words such as "wonderful", "incredible", "spectacular" and much-repeated "greats". There is some 24-carat guff. The work is variously said to be like "an electron cloud moving" and to have "this sense of energy, twist and excitement that one associates with the human body as it explodes off the blocks down the 100m straight"...

Will Wiles blog, Spillway:

Shock of the Ewww

...When I opened the emailed press release containing an image – that is, one (1) image – of the Anish Kapoor’s design for the ArcelorMittal Orbit, my immediate reaction was “fucking hell”. Instant and powerful dislike, coupled with instant horror: not a bad reaction to a work of art, but much less desirable in a structure that I think will be visible from my bedroom....


Douglas Murphy, as ever being calmy erudite:

...Just when you thought public sculpture couldn't possibly get ANY WORSE, this appears. Looking like a shat-out Tatlin's Tower, this utter bollocks is the fault of Anish Kapoor and Lakshmi Mittal and Boris Johnson and Cecil Balmond, who all deserve to be called idiots as a result... Well, you'll be glad to know that the word 'iconic' appears six times in the press release... Apalling. Truly appalling...

Blog tags: despair, drivel, public art

Last word. The Observer, editorial yesterday:

It is almost impossible to predict what will work, but something that speaks of our (not mine...) shared sense of culture seems a good bet.  That the Orbit is part of that great shared endeavour of the Olympics gets it speedily off the starting blocks. (Oh, ho ho ho...) It is clearly designed as a spectacle to draw people. It will achieve that, at least during the games themselves. And after that? Too often, these sites fall into disrepair. Johnson will need to ensure the new park matches his ambitions.

And if not? Well, Kapoor's Orbit will still be worth a visit, for it will allow us to climb to the top and look away.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. Yea, verily, The Mayor.

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Findlay coils steel escape route around Kapoor’s Olympic tower

1 July, 2010
By Merlin Fulcher

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.

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1 comment:

  1. Fantastic! A new and perfectly adequate reason never to visit London again. Ho-hum!