Sat, May 12, 2012
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Orbit tower unveiled in London's Olympic park

2012-05-12 04:42:29 GMT2012-05-12 12:42:29(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

LONDON, May 11 (Xinhua) -- A controversial steel tower was unveiled in the Olympic park of London on Friday, about two and a half months before opening of the Games, which was hoped to become of a new icon of the city and bring more visitors.

The tower, officially known as the ArcelorMittal Orbit, stands 114.5 meters tall, with red "orbits" winding and twisting like the tracks of a roller coaster. It is the tallest sculpture in the UK, 22 meters taller than the Statue of Liberty in the New York City.

Calling the orbit a "contemporary idea", its designer Cecil Balmond said the tower was "functional and robust". "When you are travelling to the top of the tower, you see the line travelling with you," he said poetically. "The space is compiled around you, and you are dissecting space."

The Orbit, which cost 22.7 million pounds (about 229.8 million yuan), took 18 months to finish. About 60 percent of the 2,000 tonnes of steel used in it was from recycled scrap collected from around the world, particularly Luxemburg in west Europe.

It will open to the public in July. "UNUSUAL WILL BECOME USUAL" Balmond is also designer of the quirky headquaters building of China Central Television in Beijing, which was dubbed by many as the "big boxer shorts" due to its shape. "I like to design eccentric buildings," Balmond told Xinhua. "Most buildings in Beijing are straight, but I designed the one as twisted." So is the Orbit.

Towers are mostly symmetrical, but the designers described the Orbit as "unsettling" and "refusal of a singular image". Talking about the color, he said that as the park is mostly green and white, it is important to have some other colors, like red. Orbit invited controversy from people, who satirize it as the "Eiffel Tower after a nuclear attack", or a "catastrophic collision between two cranes". But Anish Kapoor, another designer of it, seemed at ease.

"Victor Hugo once described the Eiffel Tower as hideously ugly, " he said, adding that in nowadays however, people no longer think so. As time passes, he noted, "the unusual becomes usual and the concept of beauty changes".

Boris Johnson, the newly-elected mayor of London, likes the idea of having such a tower. "London needed something in the Olympic park like the Eiffel Tower," he said.

"We need some statement about the city, about what we are doing. " OLYMPIC PARK TO BE A LEGACY Plans as how to develop the Olympic park were also discussed on Monday.

According to Andrew Altman, chief executive of the London Legacy Development Corporation, the park, called in full the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, will be transformed into a visitor destination in the spring of 2014.

Unlike the other part of London, it will feature modernity as a combination of waterways, parklands, new neighborhoods and sports and entertainment venues.

The Olympic venues will be used principally for sports, but other events will be carried out as well. "There will be floating cinema, niche festival and concerts and other outdoor activities," he said while showing a slide. "It is part of the city and we don' t want it to be isolated."

It was hoped that the Orbit tower could help bring one million visitors a year. "(It) is a calling card for investment in east London," said Johnson the mayor. "It is the symbol of prosperity and growth."

"The development of this area, creating new jobs, homes, schcools and thriving communities beyond the Olympics, is one of the most important regeneration priorities as we lay the ground now to meet the needs of the next 25 years," Johnson added.


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