Thomas Heatherwick Biography
Architectural designer who focusses not only on the beauty of a structure but the practicalities, the environment and the benefits to the community around it.
Background / History
Heatherwick has also been involved in the complex design of a new power station in the UK, one that uses biomass, or organic waste, to power it. He said when he agreed to the project that it was on the condition that they were not going to merely prettify or “decorate” a typical power station but come up with a design for a modern and entirely environmentally friendly one. Additionally, instead of repelling people living in the surrounding areas, as many power stations do, this biomass station would have to attract people to it. That’s exactly what this inspiring designer did, with a “power park” right beside it that people living in the 2,000 houses beside the station could use for recreational purposes. Heatherwick surely has his designs on a lot more successes to come.
Heatherwick, who has an easy speaking style and covered a range of topics in his TED talk, demonstrated to the audience the range of projects his design firm has been involved in over the years. These include a hospital building, a shop, an artists’ studio, electricity station cooling towers and even a Buddhist temple in Japan. Other works include a sculpture comprised of 1 million yards of wire and 150,000 beads made from glass.
In a TED talk in 2011, Heatherwick spoke about being inspired by the process of doing arts and crafts when he was young but that he was surrounded by buildings – existing ones and new ones going up – that he felt were “soulless and cold”. These essential elements of any design, he found, were present in all kinds of materials used in crafts – a ceramic pot, for instance, he said – and eventually he would go on to establish his own design company in London, which he called Heatherwick Studio. For students of design and architects and designers who are currently working, there were lots of ideas and benefits to the audience who would listen to this person giving a speech. For instance, Heatherwick talked about a bridge design his studio was involved with, in Paddington, London. The brief called for it to open and close. The designer thought about how to come up with a striking design that would also let the bridge be fully functional. He said he recalled seeing an image of a footballer diving for the ball and then someone stood on his knee and it broke – something beautiful that’s now broken. That’s what the Paddington Bridge becomes when it’s opening.