Starslide, 2005

5m high x 4m base diameter

Glass reinforced polyester resin, marine ply, stainless steel, Treadmaster safety flooring, LED strip lighting.

Commissioned by Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity for the Evelina Childrens Hospital in London designed by Michael Hopkins Architects.

The difficulty in making a work of art that is at the same time a functional children’s slide, is in creating both without compromising either. My concept of sculpture is that no part of it should be unnecessary. I wanted to design a slide that both in concept and form would be an integral part of the sculpture. Contrary to the usual treatment of helterskelters, in which a spiral slide is attached to a cylindrical structural element, I decided to mould the slide into the body of a cone.

To mould a spiral slide into a cone is an extremely complex technical problem. This was solved in a masterful and economic way by Peter Walde of Westward Mouldings Ltd. Once I had agreed a 10:1 scale fibreglas model, Peter cast the slide in 24 sections. The slide, in separate sections, was then fixed to the inside of the main cone mould. In order to reach the final cast, 3 separate molds were taken of each section. Each casting of a new mold allowed us to improve the final form.

Due to the difficulty both of transport and access past the central freestanding lift, Starslide had to be made in 3 separate sections; a 2 m top section and the 3 metre high base section split into 2 pieces from top to bottom. Once in the building, the 3 parts of Starslide were craned into position and were made to fit perfectly together again. The slide is a red gelcoat, the colour being integral with the resin. The cone has been sprayed with a twin pack fire resistant base coat and lacquer in a striated blend of violet and blues. I did this to suggest both the ocean, which is the emblem of the ground floor of the hospital and the magic mountain which is the traditional place of healing. Red, the colour of the slide (and the subsequently added door) is the colour of life.

Inside the cone, the access ramp is similar to the spiral inside a seashell. I have used light to accentuate the inner spiral but also to illuminate with a magical glow the way up to the mouth of the slide. I have tried to turn necessity into art for every detail of this work. Thus the demand for the ramp to have a barrier led to the creation of a curved resin cast wall. Everything in this structure is organic. In many cultures, the form of the cone represents the cosmic mountain. The spiral slide molded into the cone, is similar to the DNA spiral of life. Thus, ancient cultural myths are linked to contemporary science.