These shots by photographer Edmund Sumner show some of the first visitors able to scale the roof of the O2 Arena in London, thanks to a new fabric walkway designed by architects Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and Bblur Architecture (+ slideshow).
Up at the O2 opened this summer ahead of the Olympic games, offering visitors the opportunity to don specially designed "roof suits" and climb up to a viewing platform on the peak of the roof, 53 metres above the ground.
Climbers begin their ascent on the south side, where stairs and a glass elevator lead them seven metres up to a starting platform equipped with uniforms and harnesses.
From here, they can climb up onto the fabric walkway, which is held in place by a system of tensile cables.
Once they reach the top, visitors are faced with a panoramic view of London's skyline, before they make their descent down the northern side of the building.
"Up at the O2 is a unique experience which millions of people will enjoy," said Mike Davies, senior partner at Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners. "It is both an exciting challenge and a truly special view of London."
The O2 Arena, originally named the Millenium Dome, was designed by Richard Rogers Partnership in the 1990s, before the studio rebranded as Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners in 2007. It comprises a domed fabric structure held in place by bright yellow masts and tensile cables.
The firm recently completed NEO Bankside, a set of six-sided apartment blocks in London, and also received the Stirling Prize in 2009 for designing a Maggie's Centre for cancer care.
Here's some more text from Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners:
The ‘Up at The O2’ experience, originally conceptualised by architects Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners with engineers Buro Happold, features a tensile cable and fabric walkway that will take climbers on a thrilling journey over the venue’s roof, that includes breathtaking views of the City from a purpose built viewing platform mounted on top of the iconic structure.
The groundbreaking roof walk project, a partnership between AEG, owner and operators of The O2 and O2, the UK’s leading communications company, is unlike anything else ever constructed in the UK and draws on all of the delivery team’s specialist experience with large scale tensioned cable and fabric structures.
The climbing experience begins on the south side of The O2 where ISG has constructed a staircase and glass lift connected to a platform 7.5m high. From here the fabric walkway, built by Base Structures and designed by Buro Happold with bblur Architects, suspends above the existing fabric structure to its apex with a lanyard cable and hand rail running the full length of the walkway.
Climbers will be provided with ‘roof suits’ and harnesses at a pre-tour induction, enabling them to be attached directly to the cable as they climb to the top. At The O2’s apex, 53m above ground level, there is a 12m diameter viewing platform with a panorama plate to direct climbers to key London landmarks. The roof walk then extends to the north side of The O2 where climbers descend to ground level.
The high level of accessibility for Up at The O2 was inspired by Helen Keller’s famous words: ”Life is either a daring adventure or nothing”. Buro Happold’s Inclusive Design experts worked closely with client and disabled groups (The O2’s All Access Advisory Forum) to question assumptions about climbing and to create an attraction that is truly inclusive. A key driver in its delivery has been to make the experience exciting, fun and safe for everyone within the technical constraints imposed by both equipment and safety. Step-free access means that anyone, including wheelchair users who enjoy the demands of climbing, will have the opportunity to experience this amazing challenge.
Place: London, UK
Concept Architect: Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners
Design Architect: Bblur
Engineer: Buro Happold
Main Contractor: ISG
Specialist Fabric Consultant: Base Structures