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The organizers of the 2012 Summer Olympics have trotted out designs for a feral, rowdy tower by famed British sculptor Anish Kapoor to mightily lord over London Olympic Park. Imagined with Arup Engineers as a drunken, debauched Eiffel Tower, the monument was announced Wednesday with considerable fanfare by London Mayor Boris Johnson. Twisting and cavorting some 115 metres in the air, the tower is very high and, possibly, very scary. Visitors will be invited to climb inside its lurching monster arms (the next set for a James Cameron film, perhaps?) to gaze upon London during the Games, and beyond.

The structure will be awkwardly, officially, christened the ArcelorMittal Orbit, after the company of billionaire steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, who is funding it.

Unleashing the monument is an admirable aspiration. But Mr. Kapoor's tower fails to introduce a completely new order of artistic expression. Nearly a century ago, the avant-garde Russian Constructivists conjured something infinitely more fresh and original with Tatlin's asymmetrical and brutishly industrial Monument to the Third International which was, alas, never built. Santiago Calatrava managed something pristine and swan-like for Barcelona's Communication Tower completed in time for the 1992 Summer Olympics. The wacky irreverence of Mr. Kapoor's tower, designed with his friend, the great Arup engineer Cecil Balmond, is sure to provide a visual magnet to the isolated, eastern fringes of London. Whether its red-hot form will endure in the minds of Londoners can only be measured after its expected completion in December, 2011.

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In the past, Mr. Kapoor's legacy has been built close to the ground. Mr. Kapoor's Cloud Gate, constructed of 110 tons of mirror-polished stainless steel, for Chicago's Millennium Park is a stunning artwork that gathers thousands under its bean shape every day. In 2006, Sky Mirror was unveiled at Rockefeller Center and though it stood only three storeys tall, the sculpture was designed to reflect and invert the surrounding skyscrapers and bring the sky down to the ground. The London ArcelorMittal Orbit tower is intentionally brazen, significant in Britain where the economy has been badly beaten up.


  • 120 metres: Designs for what will be Britain's biggest piece of public art, a 120-metre-tall looping tower by artist Anish Kapoor that people will be able to climb, giving spectacular views of London, were unveiled yesterday by Boris Johnson, mayor of London. Mr. Kapoor's ArcelorMittal Orbit, a vast, snaking steel structure, will dominate the 2012 Olympic Park. It is being hailed as London's answer to the Eiffel Tower and is part of an ambition to make the Olympic site a permanent visitors attraction.
  • £19-million: The structure will cost about £19.1-million, or $29.4-million. Mr. Johnson said: "Of course some people will say we are nuts - in the depths of a recession - to be building Britain's biggest ever piece of public art. But both Tessa Jowell [Britain's Olympics minister]and I are certain that this is the right thing for the Stratford site, in Games time and beyond."
  • 1,400 tonnes: Mr. Kapoor has collaborated on the project with his friend Cecil Balmond, one of the world's leading structural engineers. Approximately 1,400 tonnes of steel will be used. The plan is for work to begin soon with a completion date of December, 2011.
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