Orbit Sculpture, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park; Orbit Sculpture, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park;

London 2012 ArcelorMittal Orbit, London

ArcelorMittal Orbit will remain a long-term symbol of the London 2012 legacy

The 114.5m tall ArcelorMittal Orbit will remain a long-term symbol of the London 2012 legacy. Its viewing platforms, 80m above ground, can accommodate up to 300 people. Located between the Olympic Stadium and the Aquatics Centre, the Orbit anchors the southern end of the Olympic Park. It was a centrepiece during the Games and will be a central attraction in legacy for visitors from all over the world.

The Orbit’s challenging form - a continuous, looping lattice of tubular steel - was developed through a collaboration between the internationally-renowned artist Anish Kapoor, and Cecil Balmond, former Deputy Chairman of Arup.

The Arup team faced a complex technical exercise as well as a tight timescale and the challenge of communicating their design to stakeholders. The Orbit is a new concept, a piece that crosses the boundaries of art, architecture and engineering in their traditional sense, fusing them into a complete three dimensional experience. It is a sculpture, but unique in its scale and in the fact that it can be entered and experienced from within. A series of spaces interconnected into a journey, it is deeply architectural but is not a conventional building. And although it is a tower structure, it defies any conventional notions of a tower, such as symmetry, verticality and linearity. Instead, it gathers strengths from its coiling and self-intersection.

Arup led the Orbit design through its conceptual development by using bespoke parametric tools which allowed our team of software scripting designers to sculpt and optimise the Orbit’s form. As the project moved into the delivery stages, the team became a fully multidisciplinary team, with Arup’s planner guiding the project through the consents process involving the Olympic Delivery Authority, the Olympic Park Legacy Company and the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE).

The Arup team worked in close collaboration with the contractors Sir Robert McAlpine with construction starting in October 2010 and completion in May 2012.

The ArcelorMittal Orbit is the first public artwork by Anish Kapoor to be lit. Arup’s lighting team worked closely with designers Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond to create a lighting scheme that highlights the sculpture’s complex geometric form.

The feature lighting scheme encourages visitors into the Olympic 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.

Sustainability has been a critical factor in London 2012’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 lightless 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 focussed and aimed to minimise light spill onto the ecologically sensitive area of the river corridor and limit sky glow. Sophisticated lighting software was employed to analyse and predict the lighting distribution over the sculpture and its surroundings to ensure full compliance with the ODA lighting strategy. 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 places.