/ The London Traveler
London — By Andrea Kirkby on April 1, 2010 at 5:21 am
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The New Skylon?

The London skyline looks set to get a new and intriguing component. Anish Kapoor’s ‘Orbit’ will celebrate the Olympics – a giant red structure that looks to me as if the Eiffel Tower collided with a Blackpool Big Dipper, and Salvador Dali took charge of the rescue operation.

Here's the original Eiffel Tower - will Anish Kapoor's version measure up?

I usually like Anish Kapoor’s work but I’m not so sure about this structure.  Remember, the great thing about the Eiffel Tower was that Eiffel was really pushing the envelope of current technological ability. It was cutting edge. The same could be said for Crystal Palace, or for Burj Dubai nowadays – reaching for the very limits of what’s possible.

This is an impressively big monument, but no more than that. Tubular steel in loops is a nice conceit – making curves out of straight lines – but not much more, really, than an architect’s in-joke. And the viewing platforms are a distraction – they look to me like something out of Flash Gordon. Maybe the evil emperor Ming will be transferring his residence to Hackney?

Now, if we’d had something genuinely difficult – fibreoptic cable used to create a light sculpture rigid enough to support a structure of this size, cantilevers used to support an overhanging structure that looks as if it’s suspended on sky hooks, a mirage-light-show of LEDs and mist – that, if you like, would have really made a comparison with the Eiffel Tower valid.

In fact the thing this sculpture most reminds me of, I’m sorry to say, is the Microsoft Office Paperclip. Ever-present, obstructive, and annoying.

I always loved Kapoor’s little shrines – rocks with holes in them, filled with red paint; small mounds of pigment, in which pure colour became form. They were unassuming art works of immense integrity and spirituality. Compared with those, I rather feel this commission lacks power – it’s blowsy, throwaway stuff.

As for the Skylon – the slender needle that distinguished the 1950s Festival of Britain on the South Bank – some of us would still like it back.

Photo by Palindrome6996 on flickr

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