The "ArcelorMittal Orbit" was conceived by award-winning artist Anish Kapoor. The Indian-born, London-based Kapoor is best known stateside for being the brains behind Chicago's beloved "Bean" sculpture, aka "Cloud Gate."
Today, London Mayor Boris Johnson proudly announced that Kapoor had been selected as the winner in the contest to design the main attraction for the 2012 Summer Olympics, which the city is hosting.
"Long after the games are over our aim is to have a stunning spectacle in east London that will be recognized around the world," Johnson said in a statement posted on the London city government's Web site. "Anish Kapoor's inspired artwork will truly encapsulate the energy and spirit of London during the games and as such will become the perfect iconic cultural legacy."
At 377 feet tall, the "Orbit" will edge past the height of the Statue of Liberty but will remain well short of the Eiffel Tower, to which it has been compared in terms of its appearance. Both the Eiffel Tower and the proposed Orbit employ extensive lattice work (thin, crisscrossing strips of metal) and feature elegant curves and large public observation decks.
However, Kapoor was quick to downplay any superficial similarities. "It would be terribly arrogant to compete with Eiffel, who spent his entire life making that thing," he told the Daily Mail. "What we're trying to make is the best thing we can do."
Still, the British newspaper pointed out that Kapoor's abstract, undulating design instantly acquired the nickname "Eyeful Tower," while Johnson is reported to have likened it to a "shisha pipe," or hookah. Further allusions have been made to a roller-coaster.
The Orbit is estimated to cost 19.1 million British pounds ($24 million) and will be funded primarily by ArcelorMittal, the world's largest steelmaker, which will also provide the material for its construction. The Canadian Press reports that ArcelorMittal's involvement was the result of a chance encounter between CEO Lakshmi Mittal and Johnson in a coatroom at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, earlier this year.
"Everyone at ArcelorMittal is delighted with the outcome of the ArcelorMittal Orbit," Mittal said today. "London will have a bold, beautiful and magnificent sculpture that also showcases the great versatility of steel."
Yet outside the company, reactions to the proposed design have been decidedly mixed.
Certainly some members of the press and public are impressed by the Orbit's radical aesthetic, but many others have received Kapoor's creation with curiosity, doubts and even disgust. Still, that's a far cry from the near-universal derision that greeted the unveiling of the London 2012 Olympics logo, which employs a similarly modernist, unconventional, abstract design.
As such, AOL News has rounded up a sampling of some of the ArcelorMittal Orbit chatter from around the Web:
"This is the most self-confident statement of all about the Olympic Park being a new cultural centre for London." -- Mike Rowbottom, Inside the Games
"The world's latest conversation piece?" -- Mary Carey, ArcelorMittal Web TV
"No surprises then." -- Liz Anderson, The Spectator
"Great. JUST what London needs, a giant squiggle." -- Tom Dyckhoff, architecture critic for The Times of London
"Mind boggling." -- John Matthew Hall, The Independent
"My only concern would be whether it will actually stand up." -- Paul Norman, Estates Gazette
"Holy Jesus, they're really going to build this. ... I wish it wasn't red though?" -- Choire Sicha, The Awl
"What better way to ensure that the Olympic Games in London is a complete joke, than installing a 120metre 'jungle gym' in the centre of the Olympics site. This monstrosity is an insult to London and a self mockery of Anish Kapoor himself." -- Aischrolatreia