ArcelorMittal Orbit, Architecture

London’s Awful Tower


No contest, is it?

Announced just in time for April Fool’s Day, the practical joke at right is meant to do for the London Olympics of 2012 what the Eiffel Tower did for the Paris Universal Exposition of 1889.

No, I don’t mean “Make it a laughing stock”.

To me, this molten mangle looks like the Eiffel Tower after a direct hit by George Jetson.

Its official name is the ArcelorMittal Orbit, after the steel company of the UK’s richest man, Lakshmi Mittal, who’s kindly donating the materials. 

(Salvaged, I suspect, from a decommissioned Blackpool rollercoaster.)

It can surely be only a matter of time before the Sun or News of the World dubs this spaghetti of scaffolding the Awful Tower.

The public reaction has so far been mixed: a mix of contempt, derision and sardonic British resignation.

Architectural historian Gavin Stamp condemned it as a “ridiculous, over-inflated doodle”.

Evening Standard reader Colin Snelling of Melbourne thinks it “looks like an old helter-skelter from a Butlins holiday camp from the 1950s”.

And I love this gem from John Stallard of Gerrard’s Cross: “Someone should check to see if the Forth Road Bridge is still there.”

The outrage has, of course, drawn praise from the usual quarters, though even that has been strangely muted.

Arts Council chief executive Alan Davey said, “At first sight, it seems an eccentric Meccano-like jumble, but then you see the parabolic beauty characteristic of Kapoor.”

(Er, unless you’re looking at the above official photo, in which case you just see the jumble.)

Kapoor, by the way, is the perpetrator, Anish Kapoor.

My ears pricked up when I heard he’d won a Turner Prize.

This annual insult to the British taxpayer doles out huge prizes for  installations like this (admittedly only a finalist – I suspect the mattress by itself, if accompanied by the regulation ludicrously irrelevant multisyllabic title, would have won).

I once wrote a poem about a Turner Prize winner, which I’ll publish here shortly.

Last word on the Orbit to Colin Snelling: “What an opportunity missed to create an icon for this century.”

(In New Zealand we have a name for that missed opportunity: Te Papa.)

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