CAN creates childlike dreams in London, UK
In 2016, Britain’s largest piece of public art, the ArcelorMittal Orbit Tower, was refurbished to include what can only be described as every child’s dream: a looping slide, 178 m long, containing 12 butterfly-inducing and gravity-defying twists and turns. Dubbed “the world’s longest and tallest tunnel slide”, it is part of an impressive structure that stands as an iconic symbol of the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games. Situated in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the initial tower was a collaboration between a sculptor and an engineer who were commissioned to create a modern landmark that commemorated the games. The London Legacy Development Corporation proposed the slide as an addition to the tower, which stands 115 m above the Olympic Park, to attract more visitors to the site.
German artist Carsten Höller and sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor designed the stainless-steel tube that spirals around the tower steelwork and is supported by a series of struts and tie rods that enable the structure to zig and twist as it descends 76 m.
But, before the creative adventure could be realised, it was necessary to install 35,000 bolts and enough steel to build 262 double-decker buses. RSK company CAN’s rigging and fabric structures team was commissioned for the complex installation process. The plans required access to many high-level areas of the tower to install rigging and associated equipment. Access was only possible by abseiling from great heights using CAN’s experienced rope-access engineers. This facilitated the specialist team working through the mass of steelwork to assemble and attach the slide.
Using a drum winch attached to kentledge blocks, engineers mechanically lifted individual slide parts from the ground. A mobile system was positioned around the base of the tower; many of the lifts required high-level load transfers between winches to move the components around and through constrictions. Most tube sections were more than 6 m long and made from lightweight, thin-walled material, so CAN engineers needed to handle them with finesse.
CAN and their colleagues completed the slide within the 14-week programme, and it opened to great acclaim.