A new London bus took to the public roads recently, nearly fifty years since the last one specifically designed for the capital, the much-loved Routemaster. Its sensuously sleek curves, both inside and out, transform what is often a grubby utility into a beautiful object, while still being true to its heritage and function. The design came from the Heatherwick Studio, founded by the extremely talented Thomas Heatherwick, whom I came across in a TED Talks video. Before that I knew him only as the designer of B for the Bang,
the ill-fated public art project which stood for some time outside the City of Manchester Stadium at Eastlands. It was erected for the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002, and at the time was the tallest public art structure in the UK. But there were structural problems, and — surprise, surprise — Health and Safety concerns prompted its dismantling in 2009. As I looked at more and more of his subsequent projects, I saw much of the Jony Ive approach to design. I guess both Heatherwick and Apple's Chief Designer took a lot from Dieter Rams, erstwhile chief designer at Braun. His ten principles of design are evident in most of Heatherwick's work, as in Ive's designs for Apple. Projects from the Heatherwick studio range far and wide, from a department store staircase in New York, and a projected power station on Teesside, to the velodrome for the London Olympics.
Perhaps his most celebrated structure was the much-lauded Seed Cathedral, that amazing structure which served as the UK pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai Expo. But not to be missed is his astounding Rolling Bridge, a temporary project hidden away on a by-water of the Grand Union Canal at Paddington Basin in London. The video below is only about a minute-and-a-half long, and well worth the viewing. It comes from his much longer TED talks video, which covers more of the projects.
The publishers Thames & Hudson will be producing an illustrated monograph on the work of the studio this summer, details here . You can pre-order it from Amazon UK here. Thomas Heatherwick: Making Heatherwick Studio: Designing the Extraordinary will be at the V&A from 31 May - 30 September 2012 www.vam.ac.uk. The exhibition is sponsored by Ernst & Young. With grateful thanks for the co-operation of Heatherwick Studio, London.