Take a ride with us
The slide at the iconic ArcelorMittal Orbit is set to add another dimension to the striking architectural sculpture at the heart of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Forming part of the major legacy work that will attract thousands of visitors a year, the 180-metre tall tunnel slide will be the tallest, longest and fastest in the world. The slide takes riders through 12 rotations and five switchbacks in its 40-second descent, shooting past the London skyline and weaving around the famous loops and curves of the Orbit.
Creating an exhilarating and unique ride was the essence of the brief for BuroHappold Engineering and the rest of design team. The design propels visitors through corkscrew tight turnings, reaching speeds of up to 24kmph before they return to the ground, and achieving this without negatively impacting on the Olympic sculpture was key.
To ensure that the slide does not compromise the sculpture’s observation decks that allow up to 150 people at a time to experience panoramic views of London, our engineers incorporated an air curtain and vent at the slide entrance. A fan and heater were added to the exit structure to blow warm air up the slide on cold, damp mornings and dry the surfaces to ensure consistent sliding speeds.
The descent speed is controlled through the helical shape slide gradient and curvature, with the slide form key to ensuring that weather and slide surface conditions do not affect speed. The Orbit’s vibrant surroundings can be experienced through the clear sections of the slide while riders zoom back down to earth.
Our team needed to deliver the artist’s vision while also ensuring the highest level of rigorous design in both installation and final use. Our solution was to use a bespoke clamp system that uses friction to resist structural loads. We carried out a number of stringent safety checks on site to confirm the effectiveness of the clamps. Our initial work designing the bespoke clamp system gave the client confidence that the project was both feasible while remaining loyal to the original artistic intent.
In order to achieve a balance between speed and relationship with the sculpture, our engineers used parametric design tools to develop a route that will offer the optimal user experience while avoiding clashes with the original structure. We realised this by developing a basic physics model based on the differing factors impacting on the side, and then calibrated our model against real sliding velocities on the Pyramidenkogel slide in Austria. While the eventual slide shape was developed outside of the parametrically controlled route, this work was innovative in its approach.
The development of the Orbit slide demonstrates BuroHappold’s ability to work on unique projects with very specific requirements. Due to open in summer 2016, the Orbit slide will offer a thrilling journey through one of London’s most well known pieces of art.
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