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May 05 2012

Anish Kapoor's Orbit tower: the mother of all helter-skelters

Finally, after two years of planning wrangles, Britain's largest public sculpture towers over the Olympic park

Time-lapse film: constructing Anish Kapoor's Orbit tower

As planning applications go, it would be fair to say that case #10/90250/FULODA, submitted to the London boroughs of Newham and Waltham Forest planning committees in May 2010, stood out somewhat. In among the loft conversions and Victorian conservatories that mark the staple fare of the weekly planning agenda in this part of east London, this particular file put the sober case for a 115m steel tower in the form of a vast, deconstructed spiral, painted bright red, lit up at night and visible from 10km away. Did the neighbours mind?

By the time it reached the application stage, the creators of the ArcelorMittal Orbit on the Olympic site (or "Boris's Folly", as it was generally known on the blog sites) had already invited as many neighbours as possible to comment. The Big Opportunity, a conglomeration of interest groups in the vicinity, with 56 members ranging from the East London Inventors Club to the Ladies' Wing of the Followers of His [Hindu] Holiness Swaminarayan Mandir, had been consulted. Responses had been invited from interested individuals from the Orbit's "region", which stretched as far as Milton Keynes, Brighton, Canterbury and Southampton. From all this reaching out, 118 comments had been received and noted by the time of the full planning application: 39% wrote in favour of a design variously described as "beautiful", "fragile" and "feminine". The rest argued in forceful terms that it was "ugly" and "not symmetrical" and objected in no particular order to the fact that it was red, pointless, expensive and an advert for Arcelor Mittal (and quite a cheap one at that).

At an open planning meeting, one of the tower's creators, the engineer Cecil Balmond, who is responsible for some of the world's most inspired and innovative structures, recalls how he thought they had lost it. "From the floor, people just seemed to be lining up with complaints, one after the other," he recalls. "It looked pretty bad at one point. We don't want this and what is the point of that? But then after a while came the counter-arguments: Britain needs something different and new, we can't bury our heads in the sand, all that. I just stood back and listened."

By the time of that public debate, Balmond and his fellow Orbit-creator, the artist Anish Kapoor, had become rather used to explaining their ideas to committees and taking feedback. They had (mostly calmly) addressed the concerns of critics, conservationists, health and safety officers and legacy deliverers one by one. Rather than calling it a tower, they liked to refer to the Orbit as "the tallest sculpture in the UK". In response to a suggestion that this sculpture had no relevance for London or the Olympics, it was argued that "the Orbit will take on a relevance of its own" after the Games had ended. As detractors had correctly observed, the colour red was chosen "intentionally for it not to blend with its surroundings". Charged with asymmetry, they argued that it was "meant to look unstable or fluid". Those who were standing up for the beleaguered bat colonies in the area had little cause for concern either: the low levels of light on the Orbit "would have no discernible effect on the bat assemblage over the Olympic site" or, indeed, on human assemblages in the neighbouring streets.

Last week, in advance of the tower's opening, I went to talk to Balmond and Kapoor at their respective studios about how they managed to stay sane and see this strange project through. In a way, they are typical Londoners. Balmond was born in Kandy, Sri Lanka, Kapoor in Mumbai, India. They both came to England as students and never left. Balmond has his hi-tech base, all 3D printers and biomorphic structures, on the edge of Hackney, a mile or two from the Olympic park; Kapoor's studio is a linked complex of factory spaces that stretches all the way down a road in Camberwell, south of the river (as his fame and ambition have spread so has his workshop; it now has the feel of a kind of aerospace lab manned by medieval guildsmen). In each man's office, scale models of the Orbit have pride of place. And despite what has been a gruelling process, both Kapoor and Balmond retain a sense of boyish excitement – or perhaps simple relief.

Kapoor started out in his teens with ambitions to be an engineer and this project has more than satisfied any remaining vestiges of those dreams: "I hope," he says, "I always will have a fascination with that archaic, elemental need to feel like an ant in an ant colony. To climb up the pyramids and just feel awe at man-made structures. That was the attraction of this for me."

For a role model in that enthusiasm, Kapoor needed to look no further than the project's driving force. Boris Johnson was almost lost for superlatives when announcing that work was starting on his great scarlet tower in 2010: "It would have boggled the minds of the Romans," the mayor declaimed. "It would have dwarfed the aspirations of Gustave Eiffel, and it will certainly be worthy of the best show on Earth, in the greatest city on Earth."

That was certainly the idea to begin with. The story goes that Johnson, keen to make his mark on the Olympic site that had become the fiefdom of the Tory peer Lord Coe, bumped into Britain's richest man, Lakshmi Mittal in the lavatories at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2009. Grasping his opportunity with both hands, the mayor buttonholed the steel magnate about the possibility of funding a lasting symbol of London 2012, boggling the minds of Romans etc. Mittal himself confirms to me that "Boris might have even taken less time than he says to convince me... sometimes you just hear an idea that resonates with you - this was one of them." Soon thereafter, Mittal pledged £17m of his fortune to Boris's priapic fantasy and the mayor sent out a notice inviting the artists and architects of his realm to find a way of spending that money.

"Anish called me up that morning," Balmond recalls. The pair had long been friends and had collaborated on various projects including Kapoor's Marsyas, the brilliant crimson horn that filled the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern in 2002. "He said, 'Have you seen this one?' I hadn't. Then he said, 'Shall we get together and do this? You know, rival the Eiffel Tower and so on?' And I thought, 'Well, no one's going to say no to that.' So we joined up. And then realised that there wasn't the money for the Eiffel Tower."

Kapoor and Balmond sat down with a sketch pad and thought what the reference points might be. As well as Eiffel, they thought of Tatlin's Tower (the vast constructivist monument conceived for Petrograd in the year of the Russian Revolution, but never built). And they thought, too, of the Tower of Babel, particularly Bruegel's version of it, an irregular mass of stone and humanity reaching chaotically heavenwards, like some termite's mound. And then they thought: how can we make a mythical tower new?

"Anish was saying, 'Well, all towers go up, but what can we do that is different?'" Balmond recalls. He couldn't imagine to start with. "But then I thought, everything that goes up is concentric, essentially. That's what we need to get away from. So I thought 'orbit', just as a metaphor originally." He sketched a loose ellipse on a piece of paper. "Now planetary orbits are highly unstable things, whirling around, but they are stable in the sense that they follow a fixed path. So then I drew an orbit that comes back on itself but keeps touching itself. So that was the idea."

It was to be 180m high, the platforms just stuck in as and where. With this sketch, from a starting line-up of 60 proposals, Balmond and Kapoor made the last three, alongside Antony Gormley, looking to recreate the success of his Angel of the North, and the Hackney-based architects Caruso St John. Just before he walked in to present to the first of many committees, Balmond recalls: "Someone from the mayor's office said to me, 'Do you know the budget?' And I didn't. She said it was around £25m. And I thought, 'Oh Christ!' Because what we had I knew would cost £50m to £80m. So straight away we brought it down to as low as we could go and still get a good sightline into the stadium: 115 metres."

That was only the first of a series of compromises. In this sense, as Kapoor observes the Orbit is very much of its political moment: "The basic premise was to do everything you promised for about half the money," he says, with a grin. Earlier in the week he had watched the Olympic mockumentary Twenty Twelve's take on the process. "The organising committee on the show come up with the idea that Orbit should be a symbol for promoting sexual health," he says. "But sadly they copped out half way through and don't end up putting a condom on it as planned. What is astonishing about it is how accurate it was in terms of some of the meetings we all had..."

As Balmond says, with a similar sense of weary mischief: "I suppose the story behind the story is that the competition seemed to go on for ever, round after round." The decision process lasted the best part of a year. "At one of these meetings, I said to Boris, 'Just choose someone, for God's sake. Otherwise nothing will get built.'"

Balmond and Kapoor not only had to convince Nicholas Serota and his aesthetic jury of the value of the design, but also the "legacy committee", who, full of Dome-shaped nightmares, didn't want a "white elephant, still less a red one". So there was insistence on maximum retail and restaurant areas. The elevator had risen up the outside of the tower in the original plan but that cost too much so they put it inside one of the legs. The walkways that spiral up to the viewing areas were originally open but health and safety insisted they be covered. Gaps between stair treads were also removed. "First, any space had to be too narrow for a mobile phone," Balmond recalls, "then it was a 50p piece."

After that, the Olympic delivery people, who were building the stadium site, "were instinctively against it because they had done a brilliant job of getting things ready on time and they didn't necessarily want this huge art piece in the middle of it all, potentially screwing all their plans up".

In order to minimise disruption, the Orbit was put up without scaffolding, and essentially by three men: one in a crane and two rising slowly on cherry pickers, bolting the ultimate Meccano together piece by piece. And, despite all the earlier compromises, both Balmond and Kapoor are immensely satisfied with the result, though they are tired of the question: "What is it?"

"The fact is that you will never get Orbit in 2D," Balmond says. "Its richness and its over-layers can look excessive to a certain kind of mind. But 3D and the scale are the only way to judge the piece. Even then, it's a tough aesthetic for some."

"The problem with models," Kapoor says, "is that you can't pretend scale. You have to experience it."

With this in mind, early on the morning after I had spoken to Balmond and Kapoor, I drove east to have a look at their creation. As I came down from the A12 flyover, the Orbit was rising into the gloomiest morning, like some strange helter-skelter, defiantly red against the black storm clouds (Boris Johnson's greatest regret is that it did not incorporate a slide to whizz down). The Olympic development has sought to make sense of the particularly chaotic bit of urban landscape that the tower presides over; it hasn't succeeded quite and the tangle of the Orbit seems, from all the vantage points I could find, to add to the confusion. The closer you get to it, the less sense you can make of it, beyond a smile-inducing kind of energy and movement. Which is, for better or worse, exactly what Kapoor and Balmond (and perhaps Boris and Mittal) had in mind.

You can see in it what you want, as Balmond observes. Mittal tells me that to him the Orbit "represents the essence of what the Olympics are about, pushing yourself to the limit... building the unbuildable..." (though he also likes the fact that the structure that bears his name is "a showcase for everything steel has to offer...") Pandering a little to his sponsors Balmond admits he did one "cheeky presentation" where he extrapolated the five Olympic rings from the swirl, "a bit of post-rationalisation, but they are there". More than that, though, he claims to see "a kind of semi-organised flux, which was a pretty good way of describing London in the 21st century, and all its energy frothing and bubbling round and around." That kind of thing.

Kapoor's worst nightmare, he said, would have been to create a logo or, worse, a national symbol in the manner of the Beijing Olympics. "I can clearly make sleek objects but this was not meant to be one of them." So what was it meant to be?

"It's a series of discrete events tied together," Kapoor says, which again is something approximating his idea of London. "We didn't want an icon, we wanted a kind of moving narrative. You start under this great domed canopy that sits above you, almost ominous darkness, sucking you in. Then you come up slowly to light. At the top, there is a room with two very large concave mirrors, bringing the sky in, as if you are in the lens room of a telescope. There are moments, walking round, when it looks a jumbled mess, and then at certain points you might see little harmonies and clarity. That is the kind of thing we wanted, not something that gave itself away all at once."

Kapoor and Balmond can talk about their creation in this way because they have had to. But they prefer simpler notions really. "It was just an attempt to answer the question: how do you go up if not in straight lines?" says Balmond, who plans to watch the 100m final from the top. Kapoor, meanwhile, sums up his sense of his creation with a final laugh. "Don't you think it's just amazing that they actually let us build this?" he asks, with undimmed incredulity. And the more you look at it, the more you agree.

The Orbit opens on 28 July, with tickets available to those who already have tickets to Olympic events, and after the Games to the general public. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

April 09 2010

Emissions make joke of Orbit tower

Is a tower sponsored by a steel empire with emissions matching that of the Czech Republic appropriate as a lasting monument to the 'world's first sustainable Olympics'?

I'm a fan of oversized structures open to the public with fantastic views across cities, from the Eiffel Tower to the Rockfeller Centre. I'm even a fan of Anish Kapoor's work. (Isn't it time the Queen created a new post of artist laureate specially for Kapoor?)

But the decision to embrace ArcelorMittal, the world's largest steelmaker, as the sponsor for the £19m Kapoor-designed Orbit tower – or Boris's Olympic folly as it is becoming known – is one that really sends me into a spin.

I don't care that the tower resembles a 115m helterskelter tangled in Wembley stadium's arch. But during London's bid for the Olympics, sustainability was the buzzword. The London games would "set an example for how sustainable events and urban planning take place around the world in future."

Is the Orbit the type of landmark the organisers of the 2012 Olympics – who have some impressive green achievements under their belt – really had in mind when it said London would host the world's "first sustainable Olympic and Paralympic Games"?

The commission was agreed by the London mayor, Boris Johnson, and the Olympic minister, Tessa Jowell. But the choice of ArcelorMittal appears to have been thanks to a chance encounter between Johnson and the steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal "in a Davos cloakroom".

But for Johnson to make his mark on London 2012 and its legacy with thousands of tonnes of steel, one of the world's most carbon-intensive materials, appears at odds with the sustainable values of the Olympic Delivery Authority and the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) – and the spirit of the times.

ArcelorMittal's court challenge to Europe's cap-and-trade scheme, recently reported by PointCarbon, is its most recent act of resistance against the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS), the main mechanism for driving down CO2 levels in industry. ArcelorMittal's action brought before the European general court sought damages for being forced to pay for its greenhouse gas emissions because the company claimed the scheme threatened its business unfairly. The court dismissed the challenge last month.

Although ArcelorMittal is cagey about its own figures for allocation of carbon credits, climate campaigners have been hard at work poring over data for the EU ETS. Sandbag which campaigns to restrict the number of credits traded on the ETS, last year published a report with the help of Carbon Market Data claiming that by 2012 the company would have 80m carbon credits that it does not need, and was given for free. If sold, the company stands to make £1bn in windfall profits, says Sandbag. A tidy profit for doing, well not much, made by a company led by Mittal, who also happens to be Europe's richest man.

But this prospect hasn't prevented the company – along with the rest of the industry – from whingeing about its obligations under the EU ETS and demanding special treatment from the European commission by warning of "carbon leakage", that they claim would force factories to relocate to regions which have no cap-and-trade scheme.

In its corporate responsibility report, How will we achieve safe sustainable steel, ArcelorMittal admits its emissions are high. Every year it produces around 220m tonnes of carbon w – equivalent to the whole output of the Czech Republic or just under half of the UK's total emissions in 2009.

ArcelorMittal aims to reduce emissions from steel manufacture by 8% in 10 years' time and is already the world's largest recycler of scrap steel – to the tune of 25m tonnes a year – which it claims saves 35m tonnes of CO2 annually. ArcelorMittal has already won one of the first gold medals of the games with this PR coup to sponsor the Orbit. But it has missed an added opportunity to extra shine to its steel business with a commitment to using at least a large proportion of recycled steel in its construction.

But when I asked ArcelorMittal and the mayor's office to explain what makes the steel giant an appropriate sponsor of the lasting monument to the "world's first sustainable Olympic games", both refused to comment directly.

They referred me to a press release by the London mayor's office in which the only mention of sustainability comes in the notes at the bottom:

ArcelorMittal recognises that it has a significant responsibility to tackle the global climate change challenge; it takes a leading role in the industry's efforts to develop breakthrough steelmaking technologies and is actively researching and developing steel-based technologies and solutions that contribute to combat climate change.

Bryony Worthington from Sandbag says: "Boris really should have done his homework. While on the surface ArcelorMittal like to appear a responsible company they have been very active opponents of climate change regulations in Europe. They have also been amassing a small fortune in spare CO2 emissions permits as a result of lobbying for generous allocations. They now have more control over emissions trading in Europe than some countries."

As a Londoner and a sports fan, I wish he'd bumped into someone else in the cloakroom at Davos. But who, one of the other sponsors such as British Airways or BP? Last year ArcelorMittal had revenues of $65.1bn (£42.4bn). What other company would have £16m spare right now? In these straitened times, would London be better off without such a monolith to a steel empire with CO2 emissions equivalent to that of the Czech Republic? © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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April 03 2010

London's Olympic tower is a monument to historical irony

Among the ArcelorMittal Orbit's unexpected twists is a revealing tale about the UK and India

The official name for London's Olympic tower – there are already several unofficial ones – is the ArcelorMittal Orbit. Boris Johnson had some fun fumbling with the name when he unveiled Anish Kapoor's design this week, but let's try to deconstruct it; it may tell us something about the world's modern history.

Arcelor first. The first two letters come from Arbed, a Luxembourg steel company (Acieries Reunies Burbach-Esch-Dudelange) formed in 1911 from three smaller companies with origins in the late 19th century. The next three letters, c, e and l, are taken from Aceralia, a Spanish steel company which grew out of another early 20th-century amalgamation, this time of three blast furnace businesses in Bilbao. A hundred years ago it was Spain's biggest company; its later career is complicated by many takeovers and reorganisations and its acronym less easily explained than Arbed's, but by the year 2000 it was its country's leading steelmaker. The 'or' is from Usinor, the French steelmaker formed in 1948 by a merger of two old companies (the important one, acronym-wise, is Les Forges et Aciéries du Nord et de l'Est). In 2001, Arbed, Aceralia and Usinor came together to form the pan-European Arcelor. In the old days, given some imagination, it had been possible to see a place and a factory behind a company title – a drift of furnace smoke, say, over Dudelage in Luxembourg or heaps of iron ore near Bilbao – but now the association between an industry and the place it inhabited became almost invisible.

As to Mittal, the basic facts are well known. Lakshmi Mittal is the richest man in Europe and the fourth or fifth richest in the world, with personal wealth estimated at more than £19bn. After Mittal Steel bought out most of Arcelor's shareholders in 2006, he became chairman and chief executive of the world's biggest steel company. ArcelorMittal has 250,000 workers at plants in 60 countries that together produce 8% of global steel output and last year earned revenues of around £44bn. Mittal is an Indian citizen whose company makes no steel in Britain and is registered in the Dutch Antilles, but he chooses to live in London.

But the name Mittal, where does it come from? Many people in India, particularly those devoted to the tradition of arranging marriages inside a caste grouping, would have an answer. The Mittals are a gotra – a subdivision – of the Agarwals. And who are the Agarwals? Originally they were a trading caste, strongly represented in the villages and rural towns of northern Rajasthan. In 1950 Lakshmi Mittal was born in such a place – at Sadulpur, a railway junction in Churu district, in a house that by some accounts was lit by oil lamps and drew its water from a well.

At first glance, the story of his rise seems almost impossible; like a story from the Victorian canon of self-help, in which the Scottish handloom weaver's son Andrew Carnegie crosses the Atlantic to become America's foremost steel magnate. In Mittal's case, the facts are subtler. He didn't leave on a train from Sadulpur Junction for an uncertain destination with nothing more than hope in his heart. His father had a steel business in Kolkata, and it was in that city that Mittal learned the trade and studied for his commerce degree.

As the former capital of India, Kolkata had been attracting trading families such as the Mittals for at least a century. They became known as Marwaris – confusingly, because most of them came, like the Mittals, from a part of Rajasthan well to the north of Marwar. A mythology grew up, some of which may be true. It was said that Marwar meant "region of death" and that the unpromising nature of the land, mainly arid desert, had forced Marwaris into livelihoods made from wheeling and dealing. Traders who built up enough capital became moneylenders (Mrs Lakshmi Mittal is a moneylender's daughter), extending what would now be called leverage to farmers and merchants. In a country where bank credit was hard to find, the Marwaris' astute lending made them vital to the commercial progress of British India. By independence, several had become prominent industrialists.

Little of this success guaranteed them popularity. In Kolkata, Marwaris were (and sometimes still are) seen as money-minded outsiders who hold to strictly vegetarian diets and a conservative view of women. On the other hand – and "Say what you like about the Marwaris, but …" is a favourite opening in Kolkata households – their philanthropy is well known and respected. Temples, schools, colleges, planetariums, hospitals: all have been financed by Marwari money, just as it was a Marwari who funded Gandhi and the movement that ended the Raj.

This was GD Birla. He was Gandhi's friend – Gandhi was assassinated in the garden of his Delhi house – and it was when he was on some Gandhian business in London that I met him in 1978. Our encounter led to an unfamiliar but rewarding experience, that of being "taken up" by the elderly leader of the then richest industrial dynasty in India. "I want to show you India," GD said, and later he did, though what he meant by India was Birla India: the Birla car factory, the Birla lino factory, the Birla newspaper, the Birla cotton mill, and not least the Birla University he'd established at his birthplace, Pilani, which isn't far from where Mittal was born. Never again will I duck my head so often to receive so many marigold garlands, or take a salute from a podium as a great man's friend.

One day at lunch he recalled a prewar experience in London, where he'd gone to talk to senior figures in the Labour party, Clement Attlee among them, about their views on Indian independence. What struck him, he said, was how their pro-Indian sympathies took no account at all of the likely economic consequences for Britain. "They just hadn't thought about it," he said, and the memory still surprised him because he, meanwhile, was considering the economic opportunities for India and the day when all kinds of objects, especially those made of steel, need no longer fill the holds of British ships bound for Mumbai and Kolkata.

Birla died in 1983 aged 90. The same year, Lakshmi Mittal, a minor figure even among Marwari businessmen, introduced new and cheaper manufacturing methods to his steel plant in Indonesia. Birla's businesses had also expanded beyond India by then, but I doubt even he could have foreseen that two decades later a fellow Marwari would be the world's biggest steelmaker. Or that one day he would meet the mayor of London in a loo in Davos and agree in a minute to spend £16m of his own money on a brilliantly convoluted decoration 100 metres high.

He will also, of course, supply the steel, but as ArcelorMittal owns no plant in Britain the steel will need to come from abroad. Hidden behind the acronym, all kinds of places are possible. Not Redcar though, or Port Talbot: on the banks of the Thames, not far from the site of the old East India Dock, an imperial wheel will come full circle. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

January 26 2010

Towering ambitions

Kapoor's proposal for a tower on the Olympic games site is the ultimate luxury – architecture unencumbered by day-to-day functionality

It looks as if Anish Kapoor will be let loose on the site of the London 2012 Olympics at Stratford, east London, to design a gargantuan tower sponsored by steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal. Like the altogether more modest Skylon – an ethereal, skypiercing mast on the South Bank designed by the architects Powell and Moya as a signpost for the 1951 Festival of Britain – Kapoor's tower, designed in collaboration with the imaginative structural engineer Cecil Balmond, will draw attention to the Olympics Park more persuasively than any of the architecture commissioned for the event. Only Zaha Hadid's Aquatics Centre will be able to hold anything like a flaming torch to this structure.

But it does raise questions. First, when is a sculpture more of a building than an artwork? And thus, when does an artist become an architect – at least in spirit, if not in law (after all, you can't call yourself an architect unless you have qualified as one)? And a third question, too: can artists take on architects at their own game?

Long before the architectural profession was officially recognised, architects, artists, craftsmen and builders worked more or less freely across their shared discipline. The greatest of them – Michelangelo vaults to mind like some Olympian high-jumper – produced some of the finest paintings, sculptures and architecture of all time. Even by the end of the 19th Century and the early 20th, when the architectural profession was well-established, the most imaginative architects of the era were equally inspiring, whether drawing, building, painting or decorating. In Barcelona, the likes of Antoni Gaudí or Domènech i Montaner were surely artists as well as builders, as were Otto Wagner in Vienna or Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Glasgow. The watercolours Mackintosh painted in his last years in the south of France, after he had given up architecture, are quite superb.

What separates the role of the artist and architect today is the fact that artists may be asked to design enormous structures requiring collaboration with engineers, yet they're nearly always gloriously useless. Buildings have to function in matter-of-fact ways. Most need plumbing, heating, lavatories – all those down-to-earth elements that Kapoor will not have to get his head around for his soaring tower at Stratford. I'm not saying an artist can't design a fully functioning building, any more than I am claiming that some contemporary architects aren't great sculptors – Frank Gehry and his Bilbao Guggenheim come to mind. If you ever get the chance, do visit Diego Rivera's House of Anáhuac in Coyoacan, Mexico City. Designed by the artist himself, this haunting 1950s structure, inspired by Mayan and Aztec architecture, houses the artist's inspiring collection of pre-Hispanic Art.

Such buildings, though, are rare. The artist brings something else to a project: unbottled imagination. Kapoor's own Cloud Gate sculpture in Chicago's Millennium Park – 110 tonnes of mirror-polished stainless steel – plays with infinite distorted views of the surrounding cityscape, especially its forest of skyscrapers. Here, an artist with a real love of buildings brings the two disciplines – art and architecture – into, and out of, focus.

In some ways, Cloud Gate is an ­appealing model. There is a world of difference between a fully functioning building and an artwork designed and built on an architectural scale, but the play between the two offers any number of intriguing possibilities. Kapoor should seize this Olympian opportunity, and run like crazy. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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