Artist Kapoor finds beauty in London's Olympic orbit

LONDON Fri May 11, 2012 12:35pm EDT

A police officer stands guard under the shadow of the Orbit Tower inside the Olympic Park in London May 4, 2012. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

A police officer stands guard under the shadow of the Orbit Tower inside the Olympic Park in London May 4, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Dylan Martinez

LONDON (Reuters) - Turner prize-winning artist Anish Kapoor said on Friday that Britons would grow to love his spiralling red tower on London's Olympic Park, just as people had come to appreciate other structures initially loathed, including the Eiffel Tower.

The 115-metre tall structure, higher than London's Big Ben and New York's Statue of Liberty has divided opinion, with some describing it as resembling a carnival slide or a water pipe.

But the artist, dressed in a blue labourer's style suit with zips on the legs, told reporters the tower, consisting of giant entwined steel lattice figures of eight, would win over the public.

"I think controversy is okay, it's part of the deal whether you like it or not," he said.

When asked whether he thought it was beautiful, he said "yes".

"It's awkward, it has its elbows sticking out."

He said it was experimental and unsettling, and "I think that unsettling is part of this curious word 'beauty.'"

He noted the Eiffel Tower in Paris had been referred to as the most horrendously ugly structure when it was built.

"We do not think of it as such any longer do we? These things are to do with how one comes to see them," he said.

The 19 million pound tower, or orbit, is Britain's biggest piece of public art, and some critics have said it is a waste of money at a time when the country faces severe spending cuts and has just returned to recession.

The bulk of the funding has come from ArcelorMittal, the world's largest steel manufacturer, after a brief discussion in a cloakroom at the World Economic Forum in Davos, in 2009, between the company's chairman and CEO Lakshmi Mittal and Mayor of London Boris Johnson.

"I am glad we could build it because it is a great piece of art, it is the largest sculpture, and this is a great thing to have in this part of London," Mittal, one of Britain's richest men, told Reuters.

"The Olympics will be over in a couple of months but this is going to stay here for generations to come."

The Olympic Park has been built in a previously run-down part of east London and lawmakers hope it will act as a catalyst for a much broader regeneration of the area.

Mayor Johnson described the orbit as a "calling card for investment ... a symbol of prosperity and growth."

London-based Kapoor worked with structural designer Cecil Balmond, famous for his CCTV building in Beijing, to create the orbit, beating competition from around the world.

The structure, which has a viewing gallery, will be handed over to the London Legacy Development Corporation, the body responsible for the Park in legacy, later this month and will be open to the public during the Games, which start on July 27.

It will then re-open in 2014 after the Park has been transformed from a sporting to a living area with new neighbourhoods and landscaping.

Michael Matovu, 11, on a trip to the orbit with teachers and pupils from a local primary school, said the tower, made of 2,000 tonnes of steel, was "kind of beautiful and confusing".

Able to see it from his house, in the shadow of the Park, he said: "You wonder why it is here and how they built it."

It was constructed by four builders, more used to working on office sites, including Europe's tallest building the Shard in London.

"As soon as we saw it, instantly we wanted to be part of it because of it being so unique, but you love it and hate it," one of the builders, Kirk Bilby, said.

"To put together, you had your good days, and your bad days. Some pieces would take three days to fit, some pieces took three hours."

(Reporting by Avril Ormsby, editing by Paul Casciato)

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