One of collegiate life’s many (few?) charms is discovering one’s own school campus–the satisfaction that comes when you’ve internalized the terrain of your campus grounds and its contents to the point where all of its secret throughways, hidden entrances, and neglected enclaves have revealed themselves to you. Once you’ve acquired this spatial syntax, it’s easy to scoff at the freshmen, visiting groups of prospects, or any of the other dunces who traverse the radial sidewalks and stroll down well-defined corridors, unknowingly complying with the authoritarian will of a patronizing architect, or worse, university official. The networks of these offshoot paths become forged with one’s own collegiate identity, in the sense that as their keeper and guardian you impart to these spaces lasting traces of your own experiences and memories. In short, you leave your mark on them as much as they leave their imprint on you.
The primary joy of these places is their near invisibility. The same cannot be said about the twin 4-story slides installed in the atrium of a school building at the Technical University of Munich. The slides present an unavoidable, though, perhaps, welcome obstacle in the middle of the large common space. Students on the top floor too tired or in a rush to take the stairs may chute down to the ground floor and continue on their way. It’s kind of like the firepole from Batman, which provides Adam West’s caped crusader with a quick getaway (and virtual wardrobe) when things got hot. The more obvious visual reference is Carsten Höller’s slide installations, the most recent iteration of which we “experienced” at the New Museum last fall. Few critics took to Höller’s puerile helter-skelter funfair, yet however similar to two may seem, the former’s shortcomings, of course, do not apply here. Who needs art to have a good time, anyway?