Water slides have finally grown up. Bath, United Kingdom-based Splinterworks is creating stunning grown-up water slides that resemble outdoor sculpture more than they resemble traditional water slides.
Bringing to mind Jeff Koons’s iconic stainless-steel Balloon Dog or Anish Kapoor’s epic Cloud Gate in Chicago, Splinterworks’s slides are gorgeous pieces of art, but they definitely also function as a water slide as well.
Cruise ships and water parks compete over whose slide is the longest, splashiest, scariest, most colourful and the most fun. And any shopping centre worth its kiddie customers, or any startup worth its team’s time has a fun indoor slide.
But Splinterworks’s upscale clients look for a different kind of slide. They want their slides to bring joy, but they don’t want the saccharine kiddie colours or the plasticky appearance, and no, they definitely don’t want inflatables either. They want an elegant slide that has a minimalist vibe and a strong visual impact. Rather than being a clashing eyesore in a garden or by a pool, a Splinteroworks slide is a work of art.
Of course, customized art on this scale has a steep price tag. Prices depend on the project’s requirements and have ranged between £150,000-£200,000.
Matt Withington, co-founder of Splinterworks with Miles Harwell, has mentioned in several interviews that because their company does not manufacture the slides, they are not bound by investment in production equipment, facilities or teams.
They can design each piece freely in an ideal way and only after that they look for manufacturers. Everything Splinterworks does is design-driven and focused on quality, and technical ingenuity and integrity.
Like most of Splinterworks’s slides the award-winning Vertex slide made of bronzed patinated copper and mirror-polished stainless steel, was created for a private residence. In most of the projects, the Splinterworks slide is part of a comprehensive project involving the building’s architect, landscape architect and builder.
The exquisite multi-curve stainless-steel Tryst plays against the straight lines of the residence and reflects the garden and its other water features.
As stainless steel reflects light and heat, Splinterworks has created a proprietary three-way cooling system where micro-jets of water spray the entire sliding surface, ensuring it stays cool and slippy. The jets also spray the steps, keeping them cool underfoot, while the strong foot grip tape ensures they are never slippery. The handrails are cooled by circulating water through them internally. All this water is all recycled through the swimming pool’s filter system.
When we asked Withington about the most interesting part of working with clients on these slide projects, he replied: “The most interesting part is balancing their creative ideas with the physical requirements of the slide safety and science, all whilst threading the slide design through the constraints of the architecture,” he says. “It’s a three-dimensional puzzle with and abstract instruction manual!.”
To our questions about the challenges, he responded that “the biggest challenge in creating custom-tailored slides is usually the concealed engineering, The sculptural element often comes easily to me but then hiding the armature and fixings with in the steel skin, without interrupting the lines of the sculpture, can be a very challenging,” he says.
“There’s always an easier option that would compromise the design, so making the extra effort to develop a discrete method is really satisfying,” he says.
The results of this meticulous and persistent focus on the integrity of the design – and not taking the easiest and least expensive way out – are really evident in Splinterworks’s elegant work. If it were easy, many others would be doing it. Tuija Seipell
Images by Splinterworks and Neil Landino