Anish Kapoor’s Arcelormittal Orbit
It was interesting to read JKR’s blog post on the the ArcelorMittal Orbit, which argues that, unlike other landmarks, it doesn’t act as a symbol for clear ideas (like the political meaning of the Statue of Liberty, for example).
I’m not sure it’s necessarily a problem that it lacks an inherent meaning. The Eiffel Tower, for example, was essentially an experiment in the capabilities of iron in the same way as this could be seen as an experiment in how far you can push structure. That was met with a negative reaction from the Parisiennes when it was first built, but as it has endured it has grown to be an integral part of the Paris identity.
Similarly, I’ve little doubt that the Orbit will be be an experience; seeing the finished structure whilst walking around the Olympics site, and indeed moving up the thing itself, will almost certainly be impressive.
My concern, though, is its value as an icon for the games. The world is flat – structures of this physical and symbolic magnitude now exist more on screens and postcards than they do in their physical reality. Almost any architectural icon you care to mention is instantly identifiable from its silhouette, but the Orbit lacks this one killer view: by being something different from every angle, it risks being nothing from any angle.