Sculpture mimicking plane mid-flight for Heathrow

Heathrow Airport has revealed plans for Slipstream, a commission from British sculptor, Richard Wilson, for the new Terminal 2.

The sculpture’s aluminium form mimics the shape a stunt plane would carve through the air. The near‐abstract sculpture is representative of the vapour trails left by the path of a plane or the effect of a long exposure photograph made real.

The final form of the plane is derived from the Zivko Edge 540, as flown by British pilot Paul Bonhomme, twice world champion air racer (2009 and 2010).

At over 70m-long and weighing 77 tonnes, it will be the longest permanent sculpture in Europe, and will appear to float through the atrium as though airborne.

Slipstream will be positioned between two walkways within the Terminal and suspended up to 20m above the ground.

Wilson’s intention is “to transpose the thrill of the air‐show to the architectural environment of the international air terminal.”

Project curators, Futurecity, conceived the commission on behalf of Heathrow and ran an international competition to select an artist for the project. Wilson’s entry was chosen from a short list of five artists by both Heathrow and independent assessments from art professionals.

To make Slipstream, Wilson has enlisted structural engineers Price & Myers and specialist fabricators Commercial Systems International (CSI). The sculpture’s design uses advanced computer programming technology, usually employed by the aerospace industry, to accurately translate the volume of an aircraft’s movement through space.

According to Wilson, Slipstream will be “a very elegant sculpture, with a streamlined, undulating surface that reflects the light in all sorts of ways. The riveted aluminium surface will highlight the contours ofthe piece.”

“Slipstream is rooted in its location. This work is a metaphor for travel, it is a time-based work. Art that moves in time and space coming from the past to the current; different experiences at either end. Sensations of velocity, acceleration and deceleration follow us at every undulation of the form,” added Wilson, about his creation.

With an estimated 20 million people flying through the terminal per year, Slipstream will become one ofthe UK’s most viewed artworks.

John Holland‐Kaye, Heathrow’s commercial director, described Slipstream as “an iconic piece of art that will bring to life the glamour and excitement of air travel, at the heart of a glamorous and exciting new Heathrow.”

The $3.9bn Heathrow Terminal 2 will open to passengers in 2014. It was designed initially by Fosters + Partners and then developed into its final form by Luis Vidal and HETCo, a joint venture between Ferrovial Agroman and Laing O’Rourke.

All images courtesy the artist and Futurecity

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