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March 21, 2018updated 22 Mar 2018 10:22am

A giant glass orb is being planned for London’s Olympic Park

By Jack Rear

From Big Ben to The Shard, the Gherkin to the Walkie-Talkie, London’s skyline is full of iconic buildings.

And it could be getting a brand new one in years to come; a giant glass orb.

The orb will be an entertainment venue and concert space. The plans are to have this building dubbed the ‘MSG Sphere’ located in the Olympic Park in east London.

It would be one of two similar buildings commissioned by the Madison Square Garden Company (MSG). This company owns the New York Knicks basketball team and, of course, New York City’s premiere entertainment venue, Madison Square Garden. The other MSG Sphere structure is planned for Las Vegas in the US.

The Las Vegas orb will contain space for 18,000 seated and 5,000 standing concert-goers. The exact size of the proposed London orb is currently unknown. However, it is widely reported that the London venue will be slightly smaller than its Las Vegas counterpart.

What did MSG say about it?

Unveiling the plans, MSG executive chairman James Dolan said:

“We believe that a large-scale, next-generation venue will not only become a premier destination but also drive growth in London’s overall music and entertainment market – benefiting artists and fans and serving as a long-term investment in the future of this incredible city.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said:

“It’s great to welcome another world-class venue to the capital, to confirm London’s position as a music powerhouse and to boost still further our city’s thriving night-time economy.”

In addition, Matt Hancock, the culture secretary said:

“It’s great news that the world-famous Madison Square Garden Company has chosen London to be home for its first international venue. This cements both the capital and UK’s reputation for leading the world in music and the creative industries. This groundbreaking arena in east London will not only create jobs but help us continue to develop incredible artists, music and innovative technology that will give fans an amazing experience.”

What will the MSG Sphere be like inside?

Designer Populous created the idea for the MSG Sphere. Populous’ other famous works include the London Olympic Stadium, the Wembley Stadium and the planned Bristol arena, plus stadia across the US and Canada.

Designs of the MSG Sphere show that the bottom half would be used for seating, while the top half would be a vaulted ceiling. The idea is for the ceiling to become a screen for huge projections. The designs show an underwater theme and a forest scene projected onto the ceiling.

Plans show a fully programmable exterior and interior made up of LED screens. Steel joints would hold the whole venue up. Plans say it will be the largest, highest-resolution media display in the world. Beamforming technology will be used to direct footage and sound to each individual. Dolan claims this means “every guest will enjoy the best seat in the house.”

The standing area will also feature a vibrating floor to help attendees feel the bass.

There will also be a digital concierge service and virtual reality capabilities.

What’s next?

The proposed site of the arena is a open-air lorry and storage facility. MSG has already bought the location for $84 million.

The London Legacy Development Corporation will need to approve the plan. It would suit them as it fits their policy that the space should be for “large-scale town centre use with supporting elements”.

However, plans could be scuppered by local campaigners due to its implications for local housing. The land is currently allocated for leisure use, but that will be unlikely to deter housing campaigners.

An estimated 1,440 houses could fit in the same space. These would be a huge boost to the current amount of affordable housing in the area. As it stands, the borough of Newham, where the orb would be located, has 25,079 households on its housing waiting list.

Still, none of this makes the MSG Sphere a given. In 2016, plans for a snow dome backed by former London mayor Boris Johnson were scrapped.

Until MSG actually breaks ground on the project, there’s still a big chance it won’t happen.

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