Heatherwick Studio: Designing the Extraordinary

by Katie Treggiden in News & Noteworthy

The V&A celebrates the work of Thomas Heatherwick, Olympic torch designer.

Teesside Power Station, Stockton-On-Tees, Teesside, UK 2011 © Heatherwick Studio

One of the most moving parts of the Olympics Opening Ceremony was, for me, realising that honour of lighting the torch hadn’t gone to an Olympic veteran, but an unknown group of teenagers. The generation the Olympics promised to inspire, in other words. The torch itself was designed by Thomas Heatherwick, and the V&A is now showing his first major solo exhibition.

Alongside the torch, the exhibition features drawings, models and mock-ups of more than 150 Heatherwick-designed works, from the new London double-decker bus to the East Beach Café in Littlehampton, West Sussex. It covers everything from his student pieces to his most recent commissions.

‘We are delighted to be showing the first solo exhibition of the work of Thomas Heatherwick and his studio.’

The photographs, maquettes, prototypes, material fragments and models on display provide an insight into his studio’s design processes.

His studio also designed the exhibition, which is curated in such a way as to show how ideas run through Heatherwick’s work. It also demonstrates how his different projects relate to each other. In accompanying film footage and audio clips, he discusses the stories behind each project.

Heatherwick Studio: Designing the Extraordinary. 2012 © V&A Images.

Heatherwick studied 3D design at Manchester Polytechnic, then did a furniture design MA at the RCA. He established his studio in 1994 and is today known for his innovative use of engineering and materials. During his career he’s worked across a range of disciplines, but has shown a consistency of vision, with many recurring ideas and themes in his work.

UK Pavilion Seed Cathedral, Shanghai Expo, China 2010 © Iwan Baan

In his awards cabinet sits the Prince Philip Designers Prize (2006), the London Design Medal (2010) and the RIBA Lubetkin Prize (2010) for the UK Pavilion. And in 2004 he became the youngest practitioner to be appointed a Royal Designer for Industry.

‘We are delighted to be showing the first solo exhibition of the work of Thomas Heatherwick and his studio,’ says Martin Roth, the V&A’s director. ‘He is an extremely exciting and forward-thinking contemporary designer whose work spans a fascinating breadth of disciplines. He is constantly challenging us with his ideas and pushing boundaries in art and design.’

Rolling Bridge, Paddington Basin, London, UK 2004 © Steve Speller

Top picture: Scale model and ‘petal’ prototype, Olympic cauldron, in ‘Heatherwick Studio – Designing the Extraordinary’ exhibition at the V&A. 2012 V&A Images.

The exhibition continues at the V&A’s Porter Gallery until Sun 30 Sep. The Museum is open daily 10:00-17:45 and until 22:00 every Friday. £6 (concs available). For advance bookings, visit www.vam.ac.uk.

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