A giant slide designed by Belgian artist Carsten Höller that spirals through the frame of Anish Kapoor’s ArcelorMittal Orbit has opened to the public.
But its designer has stated that the idea was foisted upon him – and at first he was very reluctant to add the thrill-seeker attraction.
The slide twists itself around the sculpture’s latticed structure. Measuring 178m in length, it claims to be “Europe’s tallest and longest tunnel slide” with riders travelling at speeds of up to 15mph as they descend.
Beginning from the 76-metre-tall viewpoint, Höller’s slide spirals downwards in a tight corkscrew before unravelling 50m from the ground in 40 seconds.
The tube has a predominantly silver base but features a transparent top half, offering panoramic views of London’s skyline. Visitors ascend the steel tower via a central elevator to reach the slide or viewing deck above.
The ArcelorMittal Orbit was created by artist Anish Kapoor and structural engineer Cecil Balmond as a key attraction for visitors during the 2012 Olympics. It is located in the Queen Elizabeth Park in east London, standing 114.5 metres tall – the tallest sculpture in the UK.
But Kapoor, a Turner prize winner, said he had only approached fellow artist Höller to design the slide after the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, had stipulated that the ArcelorMittal Orbit tower needed to become more of an attraction “in order to raise revenue”.
Kapoor said he had initially been very resistant to Johnson’s idea, as “it felt to me as if it was turning the whole thing in the wrong direction”.
He said: “It was not always my thinking. The mayor foisted this on the project and there was a moment where I had to make a decision – do I go to battle with the mayor or is there a more elegant or astute way through this?
“I knew of Carsten’s work so I thought, well, who better than a fellow artist to join up with and make this a positive story rather than a negative … luckily, and thankfully, Carsten was open to it, so we found a way round this.”