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 232.

    It looks inventive and from driving past it it is quite a substantial monument. I think that LOCOG has done a great job with the park. Maybe not with the tickets but still, can't all be perfect.

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    See what happens when you deny your kids the Meccano experience!

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    I was slightly nervous to read the comments because I thought most people would slag it off. Great to see us Brits welcome a daring and exciting piece of architecture. Anything that makes you stop, stare and wonder is surely a good thing. I love it. Its a great statement - fun and challenging. Part roller coaster, part helicopter landing pad, part helter-skelter

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    @Ben You don't think there are or you know there isn't? You get to see 20 miles away, nothing in that view of interest? How about the olympic park below you?

    =>Cwahhh! Positively riveted.

    And I have to pay £15 for THAT?

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    I'm loving all the negative comments here. What a bunch of moaners! Even in times of austerity we need a little lift. If you dont like it - dont come and visit. If you think its too expensive, dont pay the fee. I'm sure that there are plenty who will.
    I have seen it - its spectacular. I work for a charity, we're facing cuts, but I'd gladly pay the £15 for a chance to be inspired.

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    You can cruise around lake Windermere all day on a boat with a bar for £17.75 and take your dog for free!
    The views are much better too!"

    Don't go up it then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    In these days of austerity, to spend 22.7 million on trash like this is simply obscene. Just think what the NHS could have done with this money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    You can cruise around lake Windermere all day on a boat with a bar for £17.75 and take your dog for free!
    The views are much better too!

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    You wouldn't think the UK is in recession with the profiligate spending on the olympics. The money spent on this monstrosity could have paid for nurses, firemen, social care etc etc. Yet more trinkets for London while the rest of the country goes to the dogs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    This carbuncle has got to be the greatest waste of money in the entire expenditure on London's games. It is totally unnecessary and does not seem to fit with any of the other architecture at the Olympic park. How much has the 'sculptor' creamed off the £22.7M price tag?

  • Comment number 222.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    If an Indian steel company paid for the bulk of this (presumably for the rights to the name) and a public body (ie: our taxes) paid for the rest, why do we have to pay again to go up it ? Someone's getting ripped off here, and I think it might be us...

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    I can walk up pole hill, the view over London costs me nowt, apart from a bit of puff.
    If i look the other way i see over the forest, now that would be worth paying for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    OK let's do the math. £3.1m from public money out of £22.3m total = 14% share. Tickets at £15/adult = the 'government' gets £2.1 from each adult ticket. £3.1m/£2 = 1.49m tickets to be sold to break even, that is just over 4,000 adult visitors/day in a year. A very good business here, not a waste at all!

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    Watched it grow from twisted convoluted mass of metal to this magnificent, mind blowing edifice.
    Do I detect a note of jealousy in some of the expert comments?!

    > Jealousy? I'm jealous of the money this miscreant has pulled in for such BS. How on earth do charlatans get away with stuff Like that?

    Mind blowing? Boggling, more like. Wasn't the stadium enough?

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    £22.7M to build this?!?!?! I first heard about and saw it on the news this morning and thought it was some sort of tower with a load of red scaffolding around it. Fernando Torres at £50M was a stupidly expensive mistake but at least he wasn't paid for by the taxpayers. What a load of junk this 'tower' is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    It's a mess!

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.

    @Steve free entry up Empire State Building? I think not. To get to the top deck it's $40.

    @Ben You don't think there are or you know there isn't? You get to see 20 miles away, nothing in that view of interest? How about the olympic park below you?

    £15 is a lot certainly, but then we pay less for worse elsewhere. Probably won't go up over the Olympics when I'm there but one day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 214.

    What exactly are people wanting a view of in Stratford? Westfield and people gobbing on the pavement? There are plenty of taller look-outs in London for less money and better views. I don't agree with the price because it wasn't built for the purpose to be paid off. If the Olympics were like that then they wouldn't give half the tickets to corporate friends on a jolly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 213. can we sell developing over "wasteland" (parkland/marshland/green belt land) to the general public? I know, we'll build a big tower, let the public go up it and leave them to complain about the surrounding areas "Nothing to look at..." "No other interesting buildings..." and then we'll suggest "regenerating" the area with overpriced appartments that the local people can't afford.....!


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