New sculpture in Heathrow Terminal Two is an engineering feat

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‘Slipstream’ contains more than 30,000 unique parts and uses more than 300,000 rivets

London’s Heathrow recently took the wraps off its latest sculpture, ‘Slipstream’, by British artist Richard Wilson. Weighing 77 tonnes and measuring 78 metres, it makes quite a statement in its aluminium cladding as it ‘suspends’ 18 metres above the ground in the entrance forecourt of Terminal Two.

Most artists want their your work to be seen by the public, so where better to have it displayed than in one of the world’s busiest airports – where 20 million people pass through each year.

The sculpture is a metaphor for travel and Wilson was particularly keen to capture the imagined flight path of a small stunt plane depicting the acceleration and deceleration in its twists and turns.

The sculpture captures the imagined flight path of a small stunt plane depicting its twists and turns


The ambitious work took two years to create and in its development a variety of cutting edge tools and processes were utilised.

Wilson enlisted structural engineers Price & Myers and specialist Hull-based fabricators Commercial Systems International (CSI) to help him create his sculpture, which contains more than 30,000 unique parts and uses more than 300,000 rivets.

Each part was digitally modelled using Dassault Systèmes’ 3DExperience technology

The use of this software meant that engineering issues, such as structural integrity, exact fit, alignment and centre of gravity were fully understood and resolved digitally before the physical form – comprising of 23 separate sections – was made, delivered and installed.

The sculpture was manufactured in Hull in 23 giant sections

The sculpture was manufactured in Hull where it formed part of the successful bid for Hull City of Culture 2017 before being transported piece by piece to Heathrow in June 2013.

Richard Wilson, commented: “Slipstream is my largest sculpture to date and I have enjoyed the challenge of working on such a monumental scale and also working alongside such inventive engineers to realise this work. Slipstream is a metaphor for travel, it is a time-based work that responds to its location and I feel honoured that Slipstream will go on to be seen by millions of visitors travelling to and from the UK each year.”

Richard Wilson with Slipstream in Terminal Two

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 2014.

Of course, this sculpture is just a small part of the new Terminal 2 revamp, which forms part of a £2.5 billion development by luis vidal + architects that has taken five years to complete.

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