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The ArcelorMittal Orbit is the first public artwork by Anish Kapoor to be lit. Arup’s lighting team has worked closely with Kapoor and Cecil Balmond to create a lighting scheme that will highlight the sculpture’s complex geometric form. The feature lighting scheme encourages visitors into the Park and the ArcelorMittal Orbit by creating a “must see” element to the sculpture at night. The scheme will play an integral part in the lighting and atmosphere of the Olympic Games with the sculpture lit up in a variety of modes for different events and times of day. Beyond The Games, visitors will also experience the metaphor of an orbit after dark; using light to unravel the sculpture’s convoluted form and to grasp its dynamic shape. Arup Lighting Director Florence Lam refers to their approach as using “dark light”.

Courtesy of ArcelorMittal

Sustainability has been a critical factor in Arup’s thinking. Arup Lighting’s choice of saturated red LED (light emitting diode) lighting accentuates the bespoke red specified by Kapoor for the sculpture. The lighting scheme achieves maximum theatrical visual impact yet consumes less energy than white light. LEDs emit zero UV light, which would otherwise disturb wild-life in the vicinity, for example, moths and bats. Arup’s lighting designers, structural engineers and the architects collaborated closely to ensure that the light projectors are all discreetly located within the structure and carefully focused and aimed to minimise light spill onto the ecologically sensitive area of the river corridor and limit sky glow.

Courtesy of ArcelorMittal

Sophisticated lighting software, RADIANCE, was employed to analyse and predict the lighting distribution over the sculpture and its surroundings to ensure full compliance with the ODA lighting strategy.

Courtesy of ArcelorMittal
Arup’s Electrical and Mechanical Engineers worked with the firm’s lighting designers to integrate all services in a way that has ensured that all cables and wirings are invisible. The result is a cohesive, energy efficient and aesthetically attuned lighting project demonstrating how artists and engineers can collaborate creatively and effectively on major, and challenging artworks in public spaces.
arcelormittal orbit
"... Aesthetically, it leans towards Constructivism, recalling Shukhov's Tower ... though we should argue that Constructivism is a lot more than how it looks. ...
Shukhov Tower by Vladimir Shukhov
Courtesy Kicken Berlin and Richard Pare © Richard Pare

arcelormittal orbit

arcelormittal orbit

Still, I have faith in the one person in the frame with a great track record of producing beautiful structures that work, Cecil Balmond. As long as Boris, Mittal, Kapoor and the rest of their coterie can leave Balmond and his team at Arup to get on with it, I am hopeful that it will turn out to be a building that London can be proud of, and become as popular and well loved as the London Eye.

Making it stand up is the simple part. Turning a sculpture into a habitable, navigable space is a big ask. Adding fire escapes, step-free access, handrails, signage, refuse disposal, toilets, food service lifts, ticketing facilities, queue control measures will all diminish the sculptural purity of Kapoor's artwork. Many visions have failed in the transition from an artistic napkin squiggle into a functioning building.

The ArcelorMittal Orbit could well turn out to be awful. Yet I'm hopeful it will be an uplifting experience — preposterous, yet animated with life. I'm looking forward to be able to take my kids to the top of it, allow them to discover that great architecture too can provide thrill power. As Robert L Stephenson wrote: "To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour."
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