Anish Kapoor Wins Competition to Design London's Olympic Tower

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Over 375 feet high--that's 72 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty--Anish Kapoor's ArcelorMittalOrbit has been chosen as the monument to mark the London Olympics in 2012. The city's shy and retiring Mayor, Boris Johnson, has already nicknamed it the Hubble Bubble tower due to its striking resemblance to a shisha pipe.

Work is due to start on the steel sculpture, which the Mayor is hoping will become a rival to Paris' Eiffel Tower, in the next few weeks. The cost of the 1,400 ton steel structure has been put at around $30 million, although most of the bill is being picked up by steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal who, like Kapoor, is India born, but resides in the British capital.

Kapoor, however, who professed himself to be "thrilled" by his design's win, was modest in victory. "It would be terribly arrogant to compete with Eiffel who spent his entire life making that thing," he said. "What we're trying to make is the best thing we can do." He describes the structure, which can take 700 people an hour up to its viewing platform, as "an eccentric structure that looks as if it's going to fall over."

When it comes to size, nobody does it quite like Kapoor does. Marsyas, his 2002 installation in the Turbine Hall of Tate Britain (a beached Leviathan of a disused power station on the banks of the Thames) was absolutely collossal. Like the Olympic monument, it's a deep red trumpet created with Arup Engineers, who will be overseeing construction of Kapoor's latest design.

Last year, the Royal Academy, housed in an imposing Palladian mansion with a private courtyard, held a mammoth exhibition of Kapoor's work. For the first time in the RA's history, it allowed a living artist to take over the plaza. Whilst not on the scale of Marsyas or the Hubble Bubble (how can we not call it that?), his works were no less impressive. Most thrilling was a moving sculpture called Svayamb, or Train, a ten-meter-long lump of crimson wax and paint that slid its way through five empty galleries, passing through arched doorways and leaving a gloopy mess all over the place.

Olympic tower

There were many entries for the competition, including this one, the London Cloud, from a group of architects from MIT, which had the backing of Google. The judges, including Sir Nicholas Serota, head honcho at the Tate, and Serpentine nabobs Hans Ulrich Obrist and Julia Peyton-Jones,as well as Mayor Johnson, have been terribly secretive in the six or so months that the project has been running. But, given the scepticism of many architecture experts, wouldn't you have been?

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