Tiger & Turtle – A roller coaster for pedestrians

Heike Mutter & Ulrich Gent - Tiger & Turtle – Magic Mountain, 2009-2011, walkable outdoor sculpture, zinc-plated steel, grates, 20,6 x 48,2 x 34,4m, length of the track 220m
Heike Mutter & Ulrich Gent – Tiger & Turtle – Magic Mountain, 2009-2011, walkable outdoor sculpture, zinc-plated steel, grates, 20,6 x 48,2 x 34,4m, length of the track 220m, photo: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 by Michael Scierski

What is it?

The locals call this sculpture the world’s slowest roller coaster, but the most fitting name will be stroller coaster. It gives visitors the pleasure of a fairground ride without the speed usually characterized by roller coaster rides. However, the official name is the Tiger and Turtle – Magic Mountain.

This interactive installation-turned-landmark by Ulrich Genth and Heike Mutter is located in the industrial region of Ruhr, Germany. The Tiger and Turtle – Magic Mountain was ranked in 2013 as #6 Most Extreme Staircases by HuffPost.

Not a real roller coaster

Built in 2011, it stands at 21 meters tall. The installation resembles a traditional roller coaster. From a distance, the shiny spirals draw the viewer in, promising twists, turns, speed, and excitement, until you arrive and stand beneath the metal rings with 246 steps.

Heike Mutter & Ulrich Gent - Tiger & Turtle – Magic Mountain, 2009-2011, walkable outdoor sculpture, zinc-plated steel, grates, 20,6 x 48,2 x 34,4m, length of the track 220m
Heike Mutter & Ulrich Gent – Tiger & Turtle – Magic Mountain, 2009-2011, walkable outdoor sculpture, zinc-plated steel, grates, 20,6 x 48,2 x 34,4m, length of the track 220m, photo: CC BY-ND 2.0 by Meditec2000

The vertical loop continues the walkway and stairs, though it is impossible to walk the construction; Tiger and Turtle can’t be used as a roller coaster. No one can walk up upside down steps. It is simply a walkway with stairs with no moving parts. It resembles a roller coaster in nearly all manners except that the audience cannot ride the loop. Instead, they can just walk.

Everyone is allowed and free to explore the sculpture at their own pace, day or night. In the dark, 800 LED lights installed in the handrails illuminate the sculpture, making it resemble a curly-wurly beacon.

Heike Mutter & Ulrich Gent - Tiger & Turtle – Magic Mountain, 2009-2011, walkable outdoor sculpture, zinc-plated steel, grates, 20,6 x 48,2 x 34,4m, length of the track 220m
Heike Mutter & Ulrich Gent – Tiger & Turtle – Magic Mountain, 2009-2011, walkable outdoor sculpture, zinc-plated steel, grates, 20,6 x 48,2 x 34,4m, length of the track 220m, photo: CC BY-ND 2.0 by Meditec2000

The idea behind it

A roller coaster for pedestrians; that is the main idea behind the design of Tiger and Turtle. The first impression of this gigantic structure is a fast roller coaster, but when you come closer, you realize it is just a motionless spectacle.

Heike Mutter & Ulrich Gent - Tiger & Turtle – Magic Mountain, 2009-2011, walkable outdoor sculpture, zinc-plated steel, grates, 20,6 x 48,2 x 34,4m, length of the track 220m
Heike Mutter & Ulrich Gent – Tiger & Turtle – Magic Mountain, 2009-2011, walkable outdoor sculpture, zinc-plated steel, grates, 20,6 x 48,2 x 34,4m, length of the track 220m, photo: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 by Rheinkilometer735

Tiger and Turtle is the slowest roller coaster in the world, according to the local chaperon Frank Switala. It was supposed to be ready for the 2010 European Capital of Culture festivals but befittingly, was behind with its arrival. According to Mr. Switala, the sculpture was built as a protest against the speed with which modern society lives.

We are living in a fast time today. Everything is changing so fast and very often people go on courses or to monasteries just to slow down. This is a place you can go and enjoy walking around.

For so many years, Tiger and Turtle has been a symbolic transformation of the place that served as an industrial town.

Heike Mutter & Ulrich Gent - Tiger & Turtle – Magic Mountain, 2009-2011, walkable outdoor sculpture, zinc-plated steel, grates, 20,6 x 48,2 x 34,4m, length of the track 220m
Heike Mutter & Ulrich Gent – Tiger & Turtle – Magic Mountain, 2009-2011, walkable outdoor sculpture, zinc-plated steel, grates, 20,6 x 48,2 x 34,4m, length of the track 220m, photo: CC BY-ND 2.0 by mini_malist (off is the new on)

How it was made

The piece is made of galvanized steel and cost two million Euros. The main construction of this frequently changing three-dimensional contour of the structure was bent by the company Kersten Europe. The huge thick-walled tubes were cut into length with welding edge preparation.

Heike Mutter & Ulrich Gent - Tiger & Turtle – Magic Mountain, 2009-2011, walkable outdoor sculpture, zinc-plated steel, grates, 20,6 x 48,2 x 34,4m, length of the track 220m
Heike Mutter & Ulrich Gent – Tiger & Turtle – Magic Mountain, 2009-2011, walkable outdoor sculpture, zinc-plated steel, grates, 20,6 x 48,2 x 34,4m, length of the track 220m, photo: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 by Rheinkilometer735

The pieces were then welded together to parts of about 12,750mm with conical side to side links on one end of the tubes. Each tube has a hole and lid in place of power cables. Additionally, each tube has a connection to each other.

Heike Mutter & Ulrich Gent - Tiger & Turtle – Magic Mountain, 2009-2011, walkable outdoor sculpture, zinc-plated steel, grates, 20,6 x 48,2 x 34,4m, length of the track 220m
Heike Mutter & Ulrich Gent – Tiger & Turtle – Magic Mountain, 2009-2011, walkable outdoor sculpture, zinc-plated steel, grates, 20,6 x 48,2 x 34,4m, length of the track 220m, photo: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 by Rheinkilometer735

How do visitors feel

Anyone can enter the sculpture and walk, run, race each other, with full understanding that they cannot loop the loop of the structure. The 200 meters and 249 stairs from one end to the other provide some sense of perspective. As once take on the steps to the summit, they begin to feel the strain in the legs; and feel a sense of relief when they curve back downwards.

Heike Mutter & Ulrich Gent - Tiger & Turtle – Magic Mountain, 2009-2011, walkable outdoor sculpture, zinc-plated steel, grates, 20,6 x 48,2 x 34,4m, length of the track 220m
Heike Mutter & Ulrich Gent – Tiger & Turtle – Magic Mountain, 2009-2011, walkable outdoor sculpture, zinc-plated steel, grates, 20,6 x 48,2 x 34,4m, length of the track 220m, photo: CC BY 2.0 by sergei.gussev

There is no reeling in the stomach due to climbing up the stairs, rather a sense of relief and breathlessness when someone reaches the top of the loop and magnificent vistas of the region’s industrial activities past and present.

Heike Mutter & Ulrich Gent - Tiger & Turtle – Magic Mountain, 2009-2011, walkable outdoor sculpture, zinc-plated steel, grates, 20,6 x 48,2 x 34,4m, length of the track 220m
Heike Mutter & Ulrich Gent – Tiger & Turtle – Magic Mountain, 2009-2011, walkable outdoor sculpture, zinc-plated steel, grates, 20,6 x 48,2 x 34,4m, length of the track 220m, photo: CC BY 2.0 by sergei.gussev

Videos

2 min 56 sec
1 min 15 sec

Location

Ehinger Str. 117, 47249 Duisburg, Germany
Hours: 24/7

Analysis

Traditional roller coasters are known for the speed, anticipation, adrenaline, and excitement, but none of those are here. At first, the visitors may be disappointed at not having those excitements here.

The audience must climb to the top of the roller coaster on foot via a set of steep stairs. Thus, the sculpture subtly and paradoxically plays with the conflict of promise and dissatisfaction and standstill and mobility.

Later, visitors realize something else that is not in any other roller coaster –slowing down the feeling of creating your own fun, a plodding moment to think about speed and slow, time and life, and change and transformation. You might ponder whether it is the best thing to indulge in the momentarily forgotten rush of the funfair.

Heike Mutter & Ulrich Gent - Tiger & Turtle – Magic Mountain, 2009-2011, walkable outdoor sculpture, zinc-plated steel, grates, 20,6 x 48,2 x 34,4m, length of the track 220m
Heike Mutter & Ulrich Gent – Tiger & Turtle – Magic Mountain, 2009-2011, walkable outdoor sculpture, zinc-plated steel, grates, 20,6 x 48,2 x 34,4m, length of the track 220m, photo: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by Michael Scierski

Tiger and Turtle sits on the top of the magic mountain as a powerful contrast, a strange attempt at the reinvention of a roller coaster. This contemporary, precision-engineered sculpture only functions with human energy.

It is an invitation to appreciate something conventional in an unconventional way, to slow down life and experience something that is usually over in a flash at a pace of a turtle.

Heike Mutter & Ulrich Gent - Tiger & Turtle – Magic Mountain, 2009-2011, walkable outdoor sculpture, zinc-plated steel, grates, 20,6 x 48,2 x 34,4m, length of the track 220m
Heike Mutter & Ulrich Gent – Tiger & Turtle – Magic Mountain, 2009-2011, walkable outdoor sculpture, zinc-plated steel, grates, 20,6 x 48,2 x 34,4m, length of the track 220m, photo: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by Michael Scierski

Final words

When one stands beneath Tiger and Turtle, they may begin to envisage the impossible in slow motion.

Heike Mutter & Ulrich Gent - Tiger & Turtle – Magic Mountain, 2009-2011, walkable outdoor sculpture, zinc-plated steel, grates, 20,6 x 48,2 x 34,4m, length of the track 220m
Heike Mutter & Ulrich Gent – Tiger & Turtle – Magic Mountain, 2009-2011, walkable outdoor sculpture, zinc-plated steel, grates, 20,6 x 48,2 x 34,4m, length of the track 220m, photo: CC BY-ND 2.0 by mini_malist (off is the new on)

The name of the sculpture, Tiger and Turtle, mirrors the dissimilarity between the speed and acceleration of a roller coaster as well as the relaxing step by step exploration of the environment surrounding the site.

Heike Mutter & Ulrich Gent - Tiger & Turtle – Magic Mountain, 2009-2011, walkable outdoor sculpture, zinc-plated steel, grates, 20,6 x 48,2 x 34,4m, length of the track 220m
Heike Mutter & Ulrich Gent – Tiger & Turtle – Magic Mountain, 2009-2011, walkable outdoor sculpture, zinc-plated steel, grates, 20,6 x 48,2 x 34,4m, length of the track 220m, photo: CC BY-ND 2.0 by mini_malist (off is the new on)

The material used to construct the sculpture, steel and zinc, represents the history of the location as this is where once upon a time, zinc was mined. Krupp Mannesmann, a steel-processing company, was located here as well.

Heike Mutter & Ulrich Gent - Tiger & Turtle – Magic Mountain, 2009-2011, walkable outdoor sculpture, zinc-plated steel, grates, 20,6 x 48,2 x 34,4m, length of the track 220m
Heike Mutter & Ulrich Gent – Tiger & Turtle – Magic Mountain, 2009-2011, walkable outdoor sculpture, zinc-plated steel, grates, 20,6 x 48,2 x 34,4m, length of the track 220m, photo: CC BY-ND 2.0 by mini_malist (off is the new on)

Tiger and Turtle can be enjoyed by everyone, old or young, from up-close or distance. Besides the walk, the sculpture itself is a breathtaking site both during the day and at night.

Heike Mutter & Ulrich Gent - Tiger & Turtle – Magic Mountain, 2009-2011, walkable outdoor sculpture, zinc-plated steel, grates, 20,6 x 48,2 x 34,4m, length of the track 220m
Heike Mutter & Ulrich Gent – Tiger & Turtle – Magic Mountain, 2009-2011, walkable outdoor sculpture, zinc-plated steel, grates, 20,6 x 48,2 x 34,4m, length of the track 220m, photo: CC BY-ND 2.0 by mini_malist (off is the new on)

SpaceWalk in South Korea

Designed by German artists Ulrich Genth and Heiki Mutter, the recently opened SpaceWalk in Pohang is the largest walkable art installation in South Korea. The piece was made of 317 tons of steel and cost $9.89 million to construct.

According to Pohang City, the installation is rapidly gaining attention from residents and tourists, as visitors enjoy beautiful sunrises, sunsets, and night views from the roller coaster track-like installation. So far, there have been more than 110,000 visitors since the artwork was inaugurated in November 2021.

Visitors liken the experience to walking on a rollercoaster and since it is installed atop a mountain, they can also enjoy the views of POSCO’s steel plant and Yeongildae Beach. Reservation is not needed to visit the installation, nor is the admission fee.

But without the limitations brought about by admission fees and reservations, there was a need for a mechanism on the steel structure to automatically control the number of people on the installation at any given time. SpaceWalk is designed to block access automatically when the number of people on the structure surpasses 150.

This mechanism also blocks access in the event of bad weather, such as strong winds of 30 km/h or more or heavy rainfall. Children below 12 must be accompanied by an adult, while those under 1.1 meters in height are not allowed to enter.

Illuminated at night, the artwork can accommodate up to 250 people at any one time. Visitors can access the structure through a central stair, after which they can choose to climb the track in one of two available directions. In one direction, the winding stairs lead through a gently ascending passage that culminates in a broad curve at 20 meters above the hilltop. From this observation point, visitors can enjoy the view of Pohang and Yeongil Bay.

The second option is a little bit steeper and one will traverse a helix that appears circular from a distance. Both of these options feed into a central loop structure that is inaccessible. SpaceWalk looks like a form of drawing emerging against the sky, especially at night, due to the white LED lights – strips and modular – installed in the walkway and handrails to provide integrated illumination.

It is like a long-exposure photograph in which the light of a torch is used as a drawing implement to depict cloud formations and heavenly bodies. The artwork constantly offers new perspectives depending on the viewing location.

SpaceWalk also alludes to the local folklore of the Pohang region and the popular Korean tradition of watching the skies. The name SpaceWalk is borrowed from the terminology of outer space missions that describes the act of exiting the space vehicle in the gravity-free outer space.

The steel used in the construction of the installation was produced by POSCO and designed to withstand earthquakes of up to magnitude 6.5.

During the unveiling ceremony, POSCO CEO Choi Jeong-Woo said1: “We hope SpaceWalk, which symbolizes win-win and harmony of POSCO and the city of Pohang, is loved by many and becomes a landmark that represents Korea.”

Footnotes

  1. https://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20211118000689

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