We had the privilege to attend a talk this week by the renowned designer Thomas Heatherwick. Most people will know Heatherwick’s work from last year’s Olympic games where his design for the Olympic cauldron won critical acclaim. However there is a lot more to Heatherwick Studio and he produced a very enjoyable and relaxed presentation running through the process behind a variety of different projects including a mixed use development in China, the new London routemaster bus, the very beautiful ‘Seed Cathedral’ pavilion and of course the cauldron. A description of each project here will not do them justice and all project information can be found on Heatherwick’s website; http://www.heatherwick.com
However it is worth pointing out that throughout the talk it was overwhelmingly obvious how passionate Heatherwick is about his work. He is a real ideas man and it is amazing how many of his original conceptual ideas actually get produced without getting diluted in the slightest. In fact he even admitted that the completed ‘Seed Cathedral’ pavilion looked more realistic in the concept 3-d renderings than it did when it was built, a true reflection of how his work is constantly pushing boundaries.
However it was his thinking outside the box on this project which made it so successful as he explained that every country’s Expo were given a space of 100m x 60m x 25m high on which to place a pavilion and as expected almost everybody tried to fill the space they were given. However Heatherwick suggested that by creating a long low building in accordance with these dimensions would have got lost in the crowd and instead proposed a small polished jewel only one sixth of the allowable size giving the remaining space back as a park. The results are stunning.
Heatherwick’s work is full of wonder and is extremely sophisticated and well honed. His attention to detail is abundantly obvious and on all of his projects he ensures there is continuity between materials and form to create stunning aesthetics which effectively challenge pre-conceived notions & produce the unexpected. His product design is amazing and installations such as the Olympic cauldron and the ‘Seed Cathedral’ are truly unique. However it must be said that translating this specialism into building design & architecture is a much more difficult process. Installations like these normally develop from one major concept & idea and Heatherwick Studio are masters at turning a workshop prototype into an awe inspiring piece of furniture / art / fashion piece.
However buildings are a lot more complicated and need to relate to their context, speak to the human scale and obviously meet their function. There is no doubt the buildings displayed during the talk were intriguing but both, located in the Far East, were on an enormous scale and it wasn’t clear exactly how each building responded to their brief. Nevertheless Heatherwick’s work is amazing, the way he arrives at solutions and generates ideas is inspiring and it was very enjoyable to listen to him express his projects in words. I look forward to seeing more of his architectural projects being built in the future and will always be on the look out for his next exciting creation whether it be a chair, a bridge or a bus!
You can read more blog entries and project updates on our own website; http://www.simarchitecture.com/news.html