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.

THE ORBIT IN NUMBERS

  • 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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