thomas heatherwick

Thomas Heatherwick’s studio is a five-minute

                hundreds of plastic fibers jutting out from a                                   which emanat...
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in …5

Heatherwick, Innovator, May 2010 Modern Painters


Published on

  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Heatherwick, Innovator, May 2010 Modern Painters

  1. 1. innovator thomas heatherwick TWO IMAGES, HEATHERWICK STUDIO. OPPOSITE, MARKN OGUE Cultivation Cathedral thomas heatherwick spreads U.k.’s seeds at the shanghai expo. Marina cashdanwords above and right: renderings of the U.k. pavilion at the 2010 shanghai expo. opposite : heatherwick. 30 Modern Painters MAY 2010 artinfo.coM
  2. 2. Designer-sculptor Thomas Heatherwick’s studio is a five-minute who invited the young man to live and work at his home. There Heatherwick constructed a walk from London’s King’s Cross tube station, in laminated-birch gazebo, which an industrial space hidden behind the remarkable still stands in Conran’s garden. Edwardian façade of a onetime government The two developed a close building (saved from its former state of decrepi- working relationship. (In 2004 tude, Heatherwick tells me, by “a façade- Conran, a Design Museum retention project”). Visitors enter through a 10- trustee, offered Heatherwick his foot-tall wrought-iron gate and follow a dark own show.) This influential cobblestone drive to an oversized glass door. connection and an installation he Just above the studio is a Travel Lodge, part of a created for Harvey Nichols for chain of budget hotels. “I actually am embar- the 1997 London Fashion rassed,” quips Heatherwick. “I had a vanity thing Week—a dramatically lit plywood where I was thinking, ‘Would it be bad to be sculpture, titled Autumn under a Travel Lodge?’ And actually it’s great Intrusion, that climbed up the being here.” entire front of the department Heatherwick and his team of 25 designers, store, weaving in and out of its architects, artists, and fabricators moved into the windows—solidified his reputa- 7,700-square-foot open-plan studio-workshop tion quite quickly. London had almost two years ago. It’s equipped with a full fallen for Heatherwick’s very kitchen—clean and minimal in design—with a special designs. long, communal table, a conference room, a “I’m interested in the format meeting room, and a large workspace in the of where specialness is,” he back. In the common area, the wall is lined with says. “One part of that is trying shelves and drawers marked with labels like Clay, to spot that specialness in Fibres, and Rubbers, Plastics. projects that come to you, and The air hums with productivity. Tacked-up also the other way around— sketches and a few maquettes are sprinkled around to keep you thinking, reflecting,” says trying to make projects happen if you’ve got an throughout the rooms. “You need [older work] Heatherwick, whose explosive head of curls and idea for one.” A project he made happen was a boyish looks make it hard to believe he’s 40 carryall constructed entirely of zippers. In 2004 years old. On this particular afternoon, the focal he presented the concept to Longchamp, a point in the front space is the 10-foot-high French family-run leather and luxury-goods Lamp-Post Chandelier sculpture, which was company. “Our old studio was near a zip factory, constructed for the “Super Contemporary” so I’d been experimenting with them. I ap- exhibition at the Design Museum in London last proached [the Longchamps] with an idea for a year and has just returned. The sculpture typifies bag. And they were like, Who are you?” he Heatherwick’s approach: something special recalls, laughing. “But almost immediately there made from ordinary materials. was a kind of genuine chemistry, because they’d Heatherwick likes the word special, perhaps never met a designer before.” After the Zip bag’s partly (and subconsciously) because this successful launch, Longchamp invited Heather- adjective has been applied to him since he was wick Studio in 2006 to design its first contempo- quite young. Born and raised in North London, rary flagship store, in New York’s SoHo. Heatherwick comes from a creative family. His Special has also been used to describe mother was a bead collector with a shop on Heatherwick’s design for the U.K. pavilion at the Portobello Road, and his father, a musician, Shanghai Expo, opening this month. In winning introduced him to architecture and design early the commission, his studio beat out a number of on. Because of his bohemian upbringing, the British firms, including Zaha Hadid Architects. designer was initially wary of working in the The finalized design, he says, emphasizes texture luxury market but became attuned to it after over shape. This is another theme in Heather- launching Thomas Heatherwick Studio (which wick’s work: His 184-foot starburst B of the Bang has since dropped the Thomas from its name) in sculpture, built to mark the Manchester Com- 1994. “Luxury is only relative to what you believe monwealth Games in 2002, was so textural it was luxury to be,” he says, remarking that taking a almost dangerous, having to be dismantled last solitary journey on the Heathrow Express to the year because its metal spikes were falling off. airport is a greater indulgence for him than “I’m interested in texture,” he says. “In large getting picked up in a limo: “I’m not comfortable structures, buildings always tend to be shapes: having a driver in front and not talking to him. There’s the sky, and there’s a building; there’s Ignoring him makes me feel like I’m being rude.” that shape and that shape. But could we make a Heatherwick studied 3-D design at Manches- building and sky somehow blend with each ter Polytechnic, going on to get his MA in other? Could you have a soft building?” product design at the Royal College of Art, in A maquette of the Shanghai Expo pavilion sits London. While at rca he happened to meet on a table in the studio. It looks like a combina- Terence Conran, the U.K.’s foremost designer, tion sea urchin and 1970s fiber-optic lamp, with artinfo.coM MAY 2010 Modern Painters 31
  3. 3. innovator hundreds of plastic fibers jutting out from a which emanate 60,000 transparent acrylic central structure. Adhering to the event’s filaments, each encasing a seed donated by the theme—Better City, Better Life—Heatherwick bank and lightweight enough to be continually played with the U.K. passion for horticulture. swaying with the breeze, causing, as he puts it, “British cities are the greenest in the world— the building to “tingle.” The sun will illuminate ‘greenest,’ as in the quantity of greenery built the rods during the day, and at night lamps will into the infrastructure of the cities. The world’s light them, infusing the interior of the pavilion first public park of modern times was in a British with a shimmering glow. The structure will take city. The Victorians believed that it would help up only about a quarter of the land allotted to people’s health, so they cleared slums and built the U.K., with the remainder carpeted in gray parks. And we set up the Royal Botanic Gardens Astroturf, no doubt enhancing the whole’s of Kew, the foremost botanic gardens of the otherworldliness. “Because normally people world.” He drew inspiration from Kew’s Millen- have built the pavilion as big as their site, we’ve nium Seed Bank partnership, the largest ex situ deliberately not done that. Instead, we’re making project anywhere dedicated to preserving the a big public space. You’ve got 239 pavilions seeds of plants threatened with extinction. showing off, so how do you show off when Working with more than 50 countries, the everyone is showing off? It seemed that the partnership has collected seeds from 10 percent best way was to try and find some calm idea,” of the earth’s wild species and hopes to increase Heatherwick says, brushing his hand over the that to 25 percent by 2020. Heatherwick little sea-urchin maquette. “I’ve always liked designed a £25 million “seed cathedral” from doing projects that you don’t expect.” MP ALL IMAGES, HEATHERWICK STUDIO clockwise from top: heatherwick-designed windows at harvey nichols, London, 1997. interior rendering, U.k. pavilion, 2010 shang- hai expo. pavilion detail, encased seeds. 32 Modern Painters MAY 2010 artinfo.coM