The ArcelorMittal Orbit — the name just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? — may just be my favorite new building, though not because it's a particularly rational work of architecture, or even good. It's fairly ridiculous and easily parodied. An eyesore? "That's what they said about the Eiffel Tower," claim its defenders, on cue.
There is something slighly charming in its deranged, roller-coaster ugliness, but let's not kid ourselves. A better analogy might be to the Pompidou, but even that is a very far stretch.
The Orbit strikes me as a work of accidental architecture parlante, a structure that is the perfect reflection of our confounded age. I suspect it will be the go-to cover shot for future textbooks describing this moment in history. Like us, it seems to be collapsing upon itself, a thing more interested in image than substance, its very name emblematic of our culture of rampant corporatism. (In case you were wondering, ArcelorMittal is a steel conglomerate headquartered in the Olympic powerhouse of Luxembourg.) Perhaps this is not the full-on endorsement its creators Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond imagined, but perhaps it is; Could the ArcelorMittal be the greatest intellectual Trojan horse in the history of architecture, a monument to the Occupy Movement foisted on its corporate sponsors? Probably not, but the idea amuses.
National Stadium, Warsaw. Photo: Marcus Bredt
In the meantime, two new stadiums, in Warsaw and Kiev, from the German firm von Gerkan Marg, will be the architectural centerpieces of the Euro 2012 football championships. Like the Olympic architecture in London, these works theoretically represent the best spirit of our day.VGM practices the kind of high-tech corporate functionalism familiar from the work of Norman Foster, and that seems especially appropriate for athletic facilities. Transparency is always a hallmark of this kind of work. That will be a useful metaphor to keep in mind for those watching these games, as a recent BBC documentary revealed apparently widespread racism and anti-semitism in the stands in Poland and the Ukraine.
Olympic Stadium, Kiev. Photo: Marcus Bredt