As one of the GQ’s 50 best dressed British man Thomas Alexander Heatherwick is an English designer born in 17 February 1970 in London, England. Studied three three-dimensional design at Manchester Polytechnic and at the Royal College of Art where he meets his mentor Terence Conran, who called him The Leonardo da Vinci of our times.
Heatherwick studio was established in 1994, right after His graduation from RCA. Studio is notable for its work in industrial design, sculptures, installations, architecture, urban infrastructure, strategic thinking, fashion, embroidery, metalwork, product and furniture design, engineering, transport, urban planning and product design. Located in Kings Cross in London, the joined studio and workshop occupied about 180 architects, designers and makers in order to cooperate with each other.
Unlike many design firm, their works doesn’t define in style, but in solving the problems. All of the designs are worked in three dimensional discipline as a single discipline. The studio’s work is defined in finding alternative solutions in a creative and innovative way through a series of rational experimentation and researches, integral design solutions, texture and material. Also, their imaginative and extraordinary projects developed fame for their career. Some of these projects include the 2012 summer Olympic and Paralympic games cauldron, seed cathedral, UK pavilion at Expo 2010 in Shanghai, Garden bridge, biomass power station in BEI-Teesside and the new Routemaster double Decker buses designed to replace the older version of London’s red buses.
A series of awards were given to Heatherwick for their enormous satisfying works which includes the Prince Philip Designers Prize (2006), the London Design Medal (2010), the RIBA Lubetkin Prize (2010) for the UK Pavilion in Shanghai World Expo.
From a series Honorary Doctorates awarded to him are University of the Arts London, the Royal College of Art, University of Dundee, University of Brighton, Sheffield Hallam University and Manchester Metropolitan University.
Thomas appointed to many honorary titles which includes the Royal Institute of British Architects, Royal Designer for Industry in 2004, and made Him the youngest to achieve this. Also due his services to design industry, on 2013 he was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) as a gift for his birthday.
The learning Hub
Or The Hive, is a learning center and the winner of a competition for Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Completed in March of 2015, the hive is the first of the series of redevelopments- with a budget £360 million- in the university’s campus in 20 years. The local architecture firm GPC, worked with the studio as a consultants.Note that the BCA Green Mark Platinum Award was given to the learning hub by the Singaporean government in 2013 due to its best practices in environmental design and performance.
In today’s world, due to usage of internet for educational purposes, the university facilities become monotonous spaces, creating unattractive areas for the students.
The main goal of this project is to bring the hope back to the facilities, making them a social and an essential part for the educational experience.
Also, the designers broke the tradition of square formed classes and created corner-less rooms, in order to achieve an equality and sharing spirit between students and teachers as a partner, rather than a master and apprentice leveling model.
This building is a form follows function; in order to connect the different activities together for the students, each of the 56 tutorial rooms faces a large shared central space, without any corridors as separators. Also, the porous building makes it possible for the students to enter from all around the building, and enter the large central space, which also acts as a link between separated towers. These towers made of the classrooms in a gradual way, with specific gardens on some of the levels.
Heatherwick studio and the actor and campaigner Joanna Lumley joined as a team for the development of an idea in order to improve pedestrian movement across Thames River through a garden. This idea not also adds a special landscape for one of the greenest cities with a rich horticultural heritage on earth, but also connects the more isolated Temple and North bank area east of Somerset House and Waterloo Bridge with more vibrant and artistic South bank of London, to and from the Convent garden and Soho, while creating a safe walkway and public space with magnificent views, quite incomparable to anything seen before.
Currently the studio is in a cooperation with Arup engineering consultant and transport for London (TfL) to develop the scheme.
East Beach Cafe
As for the Littlehampton residents, Jane Wood and Sophie Murray, it was important to revive a tradition of visitation of thousands of tourists for the seaside towns like Blackpool and Skegness, started from 19th century of Britain and ended after 1970’s, which brought success and fame for the towns. In order to do that, they decided to change their selling chips, burgers and ice cream business for a new Cafe building. And that’s where Heatherwick comes to the story.
The design was quite a challenge for the studio; a narrow cigarette shape site, with forty meter long strip of land, surrounded by a public walk in the front and a line of high-pressure sewage in the back which couldn’t built over, in an exposed location; By this, the views and the privacy both became necessary. In order to achieve that, the building have to be opened to the sea and kept solid in the back. For more challenge to come, now the architects have to deal with tow more things: avoiding the windowless facade to become dead and dull on the rear elevation, and protecting the forty meters of glass facing the sea.
The designers used roller shutters in order to protect the windows. And instead of sticking them on like eyelids, they used long, undulating steel strips, for the idea to make the building out of shutter boxes in steel. The strips wrapped around the space in order to form the roof and walls. The articulation of rear facade is defined by angling the geometry of the box strips. It is achievable to hid the roller shutters by day free of any unnecessary adjustments.
Entirely in Metal and in sectional fabrication, the structure was manufactured by Littlehampton wielding only with two workers. Rigid insulated foam was applied to the interiors of It, while the outside is raw weathered material.
Teesside Power Station
The responsibility to design a biomass-fueled power station was put on the shoulders of Heatherwick studio, a station which will provide power for the Middlesbrough new houses, once a successful industrial zone in Northern England.
Despite of constructing cultural facilities in order to achieve an economic stagnation, the studio came to idea of using the power station as a catalyst for economic development. Also, the studio considered the contrast of earlier and contemporary power generating facilities, usually box-like structures, in their design process.
Due to the special features of the Middlesbrough, or the Land of Giants, such as the Transporter bridge, The studio wanted a structure to be more closely acquainted with the ground, rather than placing the building as an object.
Usual biomass fueled power plants consist of 85 meter high chimney stacks on the top of ground, and simple sheds.
In order to improve the functional efficiency of the station and to simplify the composition, team worked with engineers to bring the pieces all around the chimneys. Also, massive amount of soil has been piled up around the structure on the site due to its ability of noise reduction.
The heatherwick studio applied the idea of using plants and grasses around the deployed soil on the landscape to create a power park, rather than usage of tightly controlled security. The park is planned to be a place of social activities, such as walking, sunbathing, having picnics or going tobogganing. Heatherwick even designed the visitor center as a living museum or school of power, to b a local resource, tourism attraction and a public venue to hold weddings.
The project is a connection to an industrial past, and a new definition to an older functionality.
In Japan, overlooking the city of Kagoshima and mount Sakurajima volcano, there’s a place where the last samurai, Saigo Takamori, was defeated by imperial forces in 1877. Dedicated to Saigo, this place now have the functionality of worshiping and a deposit of cremated remains.
Design of a Buddhist temple was accepted by heatherwick studio for this site. Due to the fact that a temple shouldn’t be seen straight ahead, the designers placed it as far as possible on the back of the site, while creating a good relationship between the accesses and parking with public worship elements, such as positioning of Buddha statue and other elements.
In order to unify the functions, The studio have to find a way to hold the building together. To do so, They started the design with clay and colored blocks, which as they suggested went wrong. Then another material was put the test: fabrics. Inspired by the thick silk fabrics used in Japanese priest robes, the designers used the sophisticated and flexibility of it for their building design. Finally, rubberized foam was chosen as the material that creases and undulates, good for designing spaces such as escape stairs and monks’ cells, which as an an adaptive material turns itself into the temple.
The studio used a local hospital equipment to scan the temple model and capture it as a virtual model, due to the fact that the technology isn’t widely common and spread. The result where transformed into a constructive form build-able with armature-secured and waterproofed plywood by defining its shape into horizontal contours in a height of a step. The design is extendable in order to combine stairs and furniture with the building.
UK Pavilion- The Seed Cathedral
Began in 1852, Expo is an international fair which different countries show their technologies, culture, technology and so on in their own specific pavilions. In 2010, 200 countries attended the Expo which was held in Shanghai, China, making it the largest Expo ever.
The seed cathedral is a box shaped building in 15 meters high and 10 meters tall, consisting of 60000 clear acrylic rods with 7.5 meters long, extended from the exterior of the box to the open air. Glassy tips of the rods were filled with 250000 seeds.
To be the gift of UK to China, the landscape was crumpled and folded to represent a sheet of wrapping paper, which also created an amphitheater on It.To present the softness of the seed cathedral with a smooth touch on the ground, the landscape was carpeted in silver-grey Astroturf. Also, sloped landscape created ramps to the pavilion, resulted to a walking gallery for the installations of Troika with the theme a nature and cities. 1500 meters of required spaces such as vip suite, hospitality facilities and offices were provided under the landscape.
Curvy and wavy interior was formed by the exterior rods geometry. This also shaped the lighting of the interior, which was provided with sunlight that moves through the rods into the seeds on their heads, creating a glowing atmosphere as you move on the pavilion. Also, the light sources of each rod lights up both interior and exterior heads of the rods at night.
The design process
The sites are in the size of a football pitch for most of the westerners, among them United Kingdom. UK wanted to be one of the top 5 Expo attractions, while keeping it on a low budget.
The winner of the competition to design the UK pavilion was Heatherwick Studio. Rather than other pavilions, their design was based on simplicity, clarity, and surprisingly, absence of technological equipment. Due to the fact that many people just experience outside of the pavilion, the exterior become a screen for its interior. Also, cliches of a British city was challenged by the creativity of the contemporary British life due to the Expo the of the future of cities( better city, better life).
Because of considered low budget, It was a strategic choice to occupy one fifth of the site for the project while creating a cost effective memorable architectural space. This strategy follows by creation of public space and putting the functions under the so called focal object. The object was defined to be framed against its chaotic surroundings.
It was predictable that many of the designs will focus on the form of their pavilions. Instead, the heatherwick focused on a texture to be experience. The windy Riverside site created the idea of a facade with grass like behavior. This was introduced from the previous works of the studio. By magnifying this texture, they created the form of the building. Another interesting part of this the face it is intersected and combined with the sky. The developed idea came to a relationship between nature and human environments. Its usage of nature for the food and medicine led the design to use seeds as a symbol of potential and promise.