Slipstream by Richard Wilson RA was commissioned by Heathrow to welcome passengers to the UK’s hub airport and has been curated by public arts agency Futurecity. Weighing 77 tonnes and measuring 78 metres, the sculpture’s twisting aluminium form is inspired by the world of aviation and captures the imagined flight path of a small stunt plane. For Wilson, the work is a response to the artistic challenge of capturing movement and a metaphor for travel; it aims to capture velocity, acceleration and deceleration in its twists and turns.
Wilson is one of Britain’s most renowned sculptors and draws inspiration from the worlds of engineering and construction. Like so many of Wilson’s large scale works, Slipstream responds to and is integral to the surrounding architecture. The work is supported by four structural columns and is suspended 18 metres above the ground as it carves through the entrance court of Terminal 2.
The old Terminal 2, opened by The Queen in 1955, was demolished after 54 years of service. It was Heathrow’s first terminal, originally called the “Europa Building” and was designed to deal with 1.2 million passengers a year. By the time it closed in 2009 it was handling 8 million passengers a year. Heathrow has invited Her Majesty The Queen, accompanied by His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh to officially open her new Terminal on the 23 June.
The new Terminal 2 is part of the Heathrow’s on-going transformation and is a £2.5 billion development by luis vidal + architects which has taken five years to complete. As well as a spacious new Covered Court connecting the main transport links to the Terminal, the building is characterised by an undulating steel framed roof which floods the building with natural light. Spanish architect Luis Vidal is internationally renowned for his ambitious airport designs and the objective for Terminal 2 was to create a space that would be a destination in itself. Passenger experience and comfort have been placed at the centre of the design process which emphasises natural lighting and intuitive way-finding.
Terminal 2 will be a new international gateway for the UK, a home to 23 Star Alliance airlines as well as Aer Lingus, Virgin Atlantic Little Red and Germanwings carriers.
Slipstream will be the first and last impression of the United Kingdom for passengers travelling through Terminal 2 and this ambitious sculpture took over two years to create. To make it a reality, Wilson enlisted structural engineers Price & Myers and specialist Hull-based fabricators Commercial Systems International (CSI). The sculpture was manufactured in Hull in 23 giant sections where it formed part of the successful bid for Hull City of Culture 2017. It was then transported, piece by piece, to Heathrow in June 2013.