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Heatherwick: Extraordinary Making

Last week Elmine and I were in London visiting the Olympic Games. One afternoon we visited the Victoria and Albert Museum and saw the Heatherwick Studio exhibition.

Heatherwick Studio designed the Olympic flame for the London 2012 Olympics.

Thomas Heatherwick graduated in 1994 and has gone on to do some awe inspiring work, ranging from furniture design to architecture to full urban planning.

What is fascinating to see from this exhibit is how key elements are his desire to incorporate naturally occurring phenomena, use the context the finished project will be in, (rediscover) authentic craftmanship, as well as let materials co-determine designs based on their behavior or responses to e.g. gravity, heating or pressure.

This expresses itself in things like:

  • prototypes are not just mock-ups but fully functional miniature versions of the final solution, including the building processes needed for the final construct
  • lots of experiments to find new production methods, and ways to shape materials
  • no outsourcing of model making: all models are made in-house and become part of the design process. Holding objects in your hands changes your thinking. “It helps to create a more intuitive design process”
  • truly multidisciplinary teams, and working closely with clients and external craftsmen throughout the process
  • methods, packaging, process and work forms all express the same values

It results in truly amazing projects, which Heatherwick self categorizes under ‘Making’.
It was apparent from the exhibit: a lot of the exhibits had undergone some work with laser cutters. Its typical smell was quite noticeable if you came closer to the displays.

Very inspiring, as it showed me how design, and yes, beauty can be integral part of making. Lots to think about, lots to digest.


Heatherwick’s book ‘Making’