London 2012: Kapoor bemoans Orbit ticket price


Take a guided tour of the tower

Artist Anish Kapoor has given a preview of his Olympic Orbit tower sculpture, but admitted the £15 ticket price was "a hell of a lot of money".

The twisting red steel tower - known as ArcelorMittal Orbit - was officially unveiled to the media on Friday.

Designed by Kapoor and structural designer Cecil Balmond, the Orbit is the tallest sculpture in the UK - twice the height of Nelson's Column.

It will be open to visitors to the Olympic Games and Olympic Park in July.

Will Britain's largest sculpture become one of the country's most popular visitor attractions? Maybe.

The panoramic vista is spectacular and it's great to have a fresh perspective on London. But I find the views from the London Eye more memorable and the experience more entertaining.

As an artwork, the Orbit is slightly underwhelming. Kapoor is an extremely talented artist who has made scale the central tenet of his work. Although he's unlikely to say so in public, I suspect privately he wishes the structure was at least 50 per cent bigger than its current 115 metres.

When it comes to this particular piece, size really does matter.

Turner Prize-winner Kapoor said he thought the sculpture was beautiful, but added: "I think it is awkward. It has its elbows sticking out. It refuses to be an emblem. It is unsettling."

Visitors will be able to go up the 35-storey structure in a lift, and have the option of walking down its spiralling staircase.

During the Games the ticket price will be £15 for adults and £7 for children.

Kapoor said: "£15 is a hell of a lot of money, frankly. This thing has to be paid for, and there are all sorts of equations, but there's a push to keep that cost as low as possible and make it as available as possible."

The £22.7m Orbit is due to become a full-time ticketed visitor attraction in Easter 2014 as part of the phased re-opening of the Olympic Park after the Games.

Andrew Altman, chief executive of the London Legacy Development Corporation, which is in charge of the Park's future, said a lower pricing system for 2014 was yet to be worked out.

At 114.5 metres (376ft), The Orbit gives panoramic views across London's skyline of up to 20 miles.

The helter-skelter-like sculpture took 18 months to build, with 60% of its 2,000 tonnes of steel coming from recycled sources.

Ticket prices at comparative UK attractions

  • London Eye: Adult - £18.90/Child - £9.90
  • Blackpool Tower Eye: Adult - £12.60/Child - £9.60
  • Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth: Adult - £8.25/Child - £6.55

"We wanted to make something that was kind of a deconstruction of the tower," Kapoor told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"Towers are almost always symmetrical," he continued, saying the Orbit's twisted loops were "the refusal of a singular image".

The Orbit has two observation floors, a 455-step spiral staircase, a lift and restaurant.

At ground level, visitors are greeted by a massive steel horn which hangs overhead.

The uppermost observation floor is flanked by two concave mirrors which disorientate the visitor before they get to see the skyline beyond.

Time-lapse footage and recent aerial pictures show up to the last days of construction. Time-lapse courtesy of ArcelorMittal

Art critic Richard Cork, who was among Friday's first batch of visitors, told the BBC: "You struggle to take it all in because it is completely mind-boggling. It is utterly unlike all the photos we've seen of the Orbit from the outside."

He went on: "I feel like a tiny little creature wandering round it. These concave mirrors present us with reflections of people's huge faces. It's like being ambushed, invaded and surprised again and again."

The first child visitor was 11-year-old Michael, who has watched the construction of the Orbit from his classroom at a local primary school.


  • Its height is 114.5m (London 2012 Olympic Stadium is 60m tall)
  • If its loops were straightened out, it would be taller than the Eiffel Tower
  • The Orbit could accommodate 5,000 visitors a day
  • There are two indoor platforms offering views of London's skyline
  • On a clear day, visitors will be able to see over 20 miles
  • 2,000 tonnes of steel have been used to build the tower
  • The spiral staircase has 455 steps

"I know there are some people who don't like it, but it's unique." he said. "I like the metal loops, and the outside walkway reminds me of a cheese grater. The mirrors are eye-catching and confusing."

The design of the Orbit has split opinions since its inception at a chance meeting between London Mayor Boris Johnson and steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal in a cloakroom at the 2009 World Economic Forum in Davos.

Kapoor said on Friday that controversy was part of the deal. "There will be those who hate it and those who love it - that's okay.

"The Eiffel Tower was hated by everybody for 50 years, or something like that. Now it's a mainstay of how we understand Paris. We'll see what happens here."

Critics have described the orbit as "the Eiffel Tower after a nuclear attack" and "a catastrophic collision between two cranes".

Oliver Wainwright, from Building Design magazine branded it "a contorted mass of entrails".

"The way it towers over the stadium is particularly objectionable," he added, saying that the 2,000-tonne structure compared unfavourably to the lightweight construction of the venues in the Olympic park. "It's an obnoxious statement."

London 2012 - One extraordinary year

London 2012 One extraordinary year graphic

It is hoped the tower will help to attract 1 million visitors a year to Stratford's Olympic Park, when it reopens as the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park after the Games.

Following the official preview, the Orbit will enter a 10-week period of final fit-out and testing ahead of its opening to the Olympic crowds on 28 July.

Steel company ArcelorMittal provided £19.2m towards the cost of building the Orbit, with the remaining £3.1m being funded by London Development Agency.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    I though 'Twenty-Twelve' was meant to be a spoof documetary. It seems to becoming more and more an accurate depiction of events - almost prophetic. I don't think life has ever imitated art so closely.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Looks horrendous.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    I've seen several mentions of "waste of £22.7 of public money".

    The article clearly states "Steel company ArcelorMittal provided £19.2m towards the cost of building the Orbit, with the remaining £3.1m being funded by London Development Agency"

    So whilst you may still consider £3.1m a waste of money, it's nowhere near the lion's share of the money spent on it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Thought it had escaped from Alton Towers when I saw it. You mean it isn't a helter-skelter?

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Anyone else think this looks like a giant Mechano built helter-skelter? No prizes for guessing where there going to be filming next Men in Black/Bond/Transformers movie ... guess this whole Olympic travesty will be the coalitions version of the Millennium Dome ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    To compare it to the Eiffel tower is a bit rich. The Eiffel tower has symatry and elegance. And either way most Parisians still hate it.

    This is simply a monstrosity. I've seen barbed wire arranged more attractively.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    What a staggering waste of £22.7 Million

    NHS Cutbacks, defence cutbacks, public sector pay cuts, homeless on the streets and we spend £23 M on a 'piece of art'; whoever commisioned that should be ashamed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    £22.7m may not be a lot compared to the whole overpriced junket that constitutes the Olympics, but £22.7m could have done a lot of good elsewhere.

    The more I see, the less I believe that we’re “all in this together”. The rest of us are having to cut expenditure while others spend stupid amounts on £53.8m blobs of orange and £22.7m on a “tangled steel lattice”.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    £22 million!!! ....£22 MILLION!!!! Oh dear! What a waste of money, how much are those couple of weeks going to cost me and thee, the taxpayer?
    In answer to the comment about leaving the UK, I would love to but US, Canada, Australia and NZ only allow young very highly qualified Brits in to live there...unlike us!

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Its name is twisted, unpronounceable and, to the uninitiated, meaningless. An appropriate name, I think.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    It looks awful but hey, isn't Art supposed to divide opinion? The only thing I object to so badly is the cost; £22.7m of public money - mind you, this is nothing in comparison to the total bill we've got for the Olympics - pain made worse by the fact we're in a terrible financial climate right now. I just hope that this (Olympics) pays off otherwise we're all screwed!

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    If art reflects nature, this symbolises a tree smothered in parasitic growths - or lofty ideals smothered with rampant commercialism.

    Hmm, this is beginning to make sense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    I love it! I think its cool and fun, I love that it is a bit of an eye sore...just makes it stand out all the more! Its a clever design in that it is so unconventional, and hope some time in the not so distant future (although after this summer is out the way) I can go up and see the view!

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    What a complete waste of time and money.
    Why do we even need this ?
    Olympic park not outstanding enough?
    What is supposed to be, obviously nothing to do with the Olympics AFAIKT.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Not sure about the tower - I suspect like most things it will grow on us. I understand that the Olympics did not pay for this, it was done by a sponsor - so no extra cost to the games.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    When I saw it on Twenty Twelve, I thought they were joking. Seems the joke's on us. This thing is proper ugly, but then so are the mascots and the logo. British design has seriously lost the plot. As to the logo, take another look and say to yourself "what IS Lisa Simpson doing to that man?" Once you've seen it, you'll never be able see the logo the same way again!

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    @7 Sanity_Speaks

    You do realise Coca Cola and McDonalds have sponsored the Olympics since at least 2000 (possibly further back, didn't want to waste my time looking at earlier events).

    And to be honest, if Sydney reminds you of Ayres Rock you need a geography lessons, it's nowhere near.

    Back on topic, I like the structure, it's different. No point in rehashing whats gone before.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    What a Utter Waste of Money, Money That Could have Been Far Better Spent. After all this Farce, They have the Cheek to call Government is always telling us that We are living beyond our means.

    And I suppose this isn't? What a Crock....

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.


  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    It seems London never feels the recession only creates it, £21 million doesnt sound like austerity to me.


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