diamond geezer

 Monday, July 12, 2010

proposed site for the OrbitWhen building huge last-minute Olympic tower-sculptures, things move fast. I'm talking about Anish Kapoor's red-knotted coiltrumpet, the megastructure planned to stand beside the Olympic Stadium. It was announced in March, aired at public consultation in April, refined further in May and June, and now already the planning application has been released. The rush is deliberate. Final planning permission is hoped to be granted at the end of August, with the groundwork underway in September and proper construction started by December. By the end of the following year, December 2011, the entire ArcelorMittal Orbit should be complete, standing proud and scarlet above the East London skyline. And then in spring, or definitely summer 2012, the viewing platforms 80 metres up should be open to paying visitors. Excited? Or flushed red with anger?

There were two further public consultation events over the weekend, one in Stratford Shopping Centre and one at the View Tube. The ODA representatives wheeled out the same display boards they'd used in April, and slapped a sheaf of spiral bound planning documents down on a table for perusal if anyone could be bothered. A few of the appendices drew interested glances, notably those showing what the Orbit would look like when viewed from various points around the locality. Not as imposingly tall as I feared, I'm pleased to say, although still unmissable from Stratford High Street (and even visible from the hilltop at Alexandra Palace). And this'll be the dominant landmark in the area after the Olympics are finished, once the legacy Stadium's lost its crown, so it's important to get the details right.

I waited until I got home before investigating the planning documents in depth. I was particularly excited to see two of the comments I'd made during the previous consultation written up in black and white as if somebody was actually treating them seriously. But no. One was summarily debunked in the column on the right, and the other was turned down flat two pages later, in total disregard to precisely what I'd actually suggested. Ah well, I should know by now that any consultation exists solely to tick administrative boxes, so I probably won't bother submitting any choice thoughts this time round.
[Having said that, there's a fairly gobsmacking plan for something major in the Bow area which I believe is solely down to a single comment I once made at a consultation event. Should construction ever come to fruition I may confess all. Or I may keep very very quiet]

Should you want to plough through the planning documents yourself, they can all be accessed here. Yes, I know, it's a website aimed at planners, and therefore not in any way public-friendly. The documents you want are hidden away on the 5th tab, and there are 64 of them. If you want to read the fairly dry planning statement, and you've got plenty of time, try the third one down. If you're more interested in the artistic intentions behind Anish's great tower, try number 6 and number 7. And if you don't have long, and you prefer to be spoken to in non-technical terms, then number 8 is the document for you. Responses are required by August 2nd, via an email link hidden in a pdf (which is almost as if they'd rather nobody responded). And in case you can't be bothered, I've cut and pasted a few choice snippets below.

The proposed ArcelorMittal Orbit designed by Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond will be the UK’s tallest sculpture, standing at 114m in height with two observation platforms. The sculpture takes the form of a three dimensional knot, coiling five times and touching the ground in three places, similar to a tripod. The superstructure is formed of continuously looping tubular diagrid steel lattice, painted Kapoor’s traditional deep red colour.

“The visitor’s experience of the tower is a dramatic journey encompassing a series of phenomenological and physical experiences which range from the mysterious to the contemplative, verticality, horizontality, darkness and light.” - Anish Kapoor

Canopy: As the visitor enters ‘Orbit’, a large bell shape canopy hangs above suspended within the twisting lattice structure. The ground dips to a shallow ‘crater’. Above the void, the bell canopy hovers dark and ominous. The horizon of the edge of the canopy shimmers, engaging the viewer in a contemplative experience.
Entry Pavilion: On the edge of the crater is a dark volume, which is the entry pavilion to the piece. The Artists’ intent is that this pavilion is made with industrial dark concrete blockwork. It houses the security equipment and a lobby for visitors embarking on the skyward journey.
The Ascent: The ascent gives the visitor a thrilling view of the structure as it twists and winds, through a hard, tough and mostly solid lift ‘capsule’ with small windows that slowly and mysteriously reveal glimpses of structure, sky and ground, before revealing stunning views of London and the countryside beyond.
Observatory - Upper Deck: The visitor arrives at the upper deck, where the space is uncluttered and open. The circular pavilion is pierced at its centre by a glass annulus, which is open to the elements top and bottom. Its bright light draws the visitor forward and offers a view onto the spiralling structure below. This observatory space gives spectacular views over London, and offers space for potentially exhibiting installation art. It is the Artist’s aspiration to include two very large concave mirrors on either side of the circular room in the future.
The Descent: The descent down the staircase allows the visitor to experience a physical orbiting journey around and through the winding coils of the structure. This makes the scale of the piece and vertical drop tangible. The stairs are a 350m long spiral of about 500 steps which wraps around the main leg offering 360° views of the structure, the Park and the city beyond. The stairs are also enclosed by a 3m high, side and overhead protective mesh.

» The Orbit will be a distinct icon of the London 2012 Games - a cultural and recreational destination for many international and UK visitors to London. Many of the existing London landmarks are located in Central London and along the River Thames, but the Orbit will be a new landmark for the capital in East London, where none exist currently.
» It is expected that about 500 people an hour will visit ‘Orbit’ at peak and that a maximum of 300 will occupy the platform decks at one time.
» Single sex toilet blocks will be provided on the lower viewing platform for use by staff and visitors. These will contain both ambulant accessible toilet cubicles and wheelchair user accessible toilet cubicles in line with the ODA Inclusive Design Standards. The WC positions have been laid out so that they do not face Mecca.

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