Heatherwick Studio: Designing the extraordinary at the V&A
You shouldn’t be surprised to see people bouncily spinning around, sitting on huge rills in the hall of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Feel free to try the Spun, the designer’s interpretation of good, old chair, yourself. This is due to the first major solo exhibition of one of the most inventive and experimental design studios practicing in Britain today: Heatherwick Studio.
The display shows a rich variety of projects conceived by British designer Thomas Heatherwick, described as a “Leonardo da Vinci of our times” by Terence Conan. His studio comprises works developed over two decades of his studio’s existence, since its establishment in 1994, spanning the disciplines of architecture, engineering, transport and urban planning to furniture, sculpture and product design. Although the show is a non-chronological presentation, it starts with Thomas Heatherwick’s student work and continues through to later commissions, such as the glass Bleigiessen installation for the Wellcome Trust (2005), the aluminium piece of furniture Extrusions (2009) and the Seed Cathedral (award winning UK Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo 2010), up to the latest addition to the city’s scenery, the New Bus for London (2011) and the Teesside biomass-fuelled power station (yet unbuilt).
There are over 150 objects on display, including models of finished works as well as preparatory drawings, contextual photographs and prototypes, presenting the amazing creative processes and their intense and essential interest in materials, which probably makes their designs so spectacular and remarkable, yet not tawdry. It’s a real pleasure to follow their ideas; and the maquettes, which are not only the illustrations of finished projects but are also used by the studio, present how their innovative solutions work. If you are lucky on one of these special events, you may see the demonstration of the pedestrian Rolling Bridge in Paddington Basin, London (2004), which instead of breaking apart, gently curves itself into octagonal structures.
Thomas Heatherwick has recently been announced as designer of the 2012 Olympic Cauldron. Whilst waiting for the designs to be revealed, V&A offer us the inspiring opportunity to see the workshop and to understand the working of his innovative design studio.
The exhibition takes place in the V&A’s Porter Gallery, from 31st May to 30th September 2012. The Museum is open daily 10:00-17:45 and until 22:00 every Friday. Tickets: £6 (concessions available).