diamond geezer

 Sunday, April 25, 2010

Only last month Boris delighted in announcing that an enormous lump of public art would be erected beside the Olympic Stadium. This sculpted tower of coiled steel will be called the ArcelorMittal Orbit (but only to people who write press releases), and has been designed by artist Anish Kapoor. At 115 metres from tip to base it'll be even taller than the Statue of Liberty, with a viewing platform two-thirds of the way up, and will be the landmark attraction of the 2012 Games. As a megastructure with the possibility of transforming the East End skyline forever, it clearly requires planning permission. And that planning permission is being applied for as fast as next month, which leaves a limited window for local people to have their say on whether they like it or not.

As a very-local person, Arup have sent me a glossy letter in the post inviting me to come along to a public exhibition. On one side of the leaflet is a full-colour illustration of Kapoor's snakecharmer tower. Latticed cables erupt from the ground, rising to a defiant skyward hump. The liftshaft contains the only vertical lines, propped up on a curved base like a giant trumpet. Up top are two levels of observation lounge, linked to the ground via seven revolutions of descending ramp. Hundreds of tiny cartoon people mill around the plaza below, most of them conveniently wearing red to counterpoint the painted steel. It looks amazing, to be honest, although it may not look quite so amazing sat at the bottom of my road for the remainder of time.

So I'll be going along to exhibition at the View Tube to find out more, if only because I suspect not many other people will. It's being hosted in a metal container in the middle of a building site. It's open for one Wednesday evening, one Thursday evening and one Bank Holiday Saturday. And it's a sham consultation, obviously, because the Orbit is going to get built whether local folk think it's an eyesore or not.
The ArcelorMittal Orbit: Public Exhibition at the View Tube
• Wednesday 28 April: 4pm - 8:30pm
• Thursday 29 April: 5:30pm - 8:30pm
• Saturday 1 May: 10am - 3pm
There's a dedicated website with further planning information about the Orbit, which is here, although it's a bit light on detail. How tall is thing going to look, for example, from a variety of locations in the immediate and no-so-immediate vicinity? No clues, none at all. Fortunately there's also a feedback page where anyone can add their two'pennorth to the debate, and every comment will be included in London 2012's official planning submission. Unbelievably this is an anonymous process, with unverified identification via nothing stronger than the first part of your postcode. So there's nothing stopping people in Stornoway or even San Francisco from sending in their views, and pretending to be in E15 or E3, and maybe saying how much they love the Orbit even though they haven't got to live with it.

Feedback notwithstanding, construction of the Orbit will begin later this year. It's going up on the site of the old Thornton Fields railway sidings, halfway between the Stadium and the Aquatics Centre, where it'll no doubt become very visible very quickly. Then from 2012, for a fee, anyone'll be able to visit the Olympic Park and snoop down across my end of London from umpteen metres up. Meanwhile I'll be staring back from my flat at this red metal intruder poking defiantly into the sky, wondering whoever allowed Boris to plonk it there. Please, world, feed back carefully.


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