Explored and Celebrated, Craftsmanship Behind Every Project

Last week I attended a brilliant lecture by Thomas Heatherwick, a most inspiring contemporary designer based in London. Heatherwick Studio is currently working on Google’s new California Headquarters with Bjarke Ingels as well as a couple of projects in New York City; Pier 55 and a sculpture and public plaza with a "gathering" theme at the center of the Hudson Yards development.

Heatherwick was energetic, honest and at times laugh out loud funny in front of the crowd. He talked through a few of his projects from the initial stages to the end result and throughout the lecture his studios methodology and process were evident.

Pier 55: Off of Manhattans West side, in the Meatpacking district. Each new pier turns into a planter that follows the organic shape of hills and valleys with event space in middle for 3,000 guests.

Pier 55: Off of Manhattans West side, in the Meatpacking district. Each new pier turns into a planter that follows the organic shape of hills and valleys with event space in middle for 3,000 guests.

Longchamp store in Soho

Longchamp store in Soho

Aberystwyth Artist Studios: Steel the thickness of cooking foil was crinkled and sprayed with insulation foam on the back to act as an insulated cladding material.

Aberystwyth Artist Studios: Steel the thickness of cooking foil was crinkled and sprayed with insulation foam on the back to act as an insulated cladding material.

The studio’s process is like most design processes regardless of sector, iterative and full of investigation, testing, questioning and experimenting; full of dead ends and small victories.  One differentiator is their use of non-traditional material form. A deep understanding of materials allows them to manipulate form into sophisticated designs beginning with early experiments in their workshop. 

The results are beyond innovative. 

  • Steel the thickness of cooking foil was crinkled and sprayed with insulation foam on the back to act as an insulated cladding material.
  • Stamped and billowed concrete forms in the design of the Nanyang Learning Hub.
  • Aero-space windscreen technology used to create the undulating railing infill panels of the Longchamp store in NYC’s Soho neighborhood.
Stamped billowing concrete in the Nanyang learning hub.

Stamped billowing concrete in the Nanyang learning hub.

Technological University Learning Hub Part of the brief included a space that had no corners or corridors and lots of ‘nooks and crannies’ for interactions. 

Technological University Learning Hub Part of the brief included a space that had no corners or corridors and lots of ‘nooks and crannies’ for interactions. 

The studio seems to continuously explore materials and building techniques across industries and apply them to architecture and design.  They are very connected to the making process, the craftsmanship behind every project is explored and celebrated.
UK Pavilion at the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, China: Given half the budget of any other western nation and a brief that included the UK pavilion must be voted into the top 5, the Studio wanted to do one powerful move that had clarity in order to stand out from the rest of the 240 pavilions that would be part of the Expo. Part of their solution included deliberately designing 5/6 of the site to be forgettable and the other 1/6 as a feature with all the high profile, public and visitor spaces around it. I think it succeeded. 

UK Pavilion at the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, China: Given half the budget of any other western nation and a brief that included the UK pavilion must be voted into the top 5, the Studio wanted to do one powerful move that had clarity in order to stand out from the rest of the 240 pavilions that would be part of the Expo. Part of their solution included deliberately designing 5/6 of the site to be forgettable and the other 1/6 as a feature with all the high profile, public and visitor spaces around it. I think it succeeded. 

Olympic Cauldron Scale Model: The Studio set out to design a moment that would be memorable throughout the Olympics. They ultimately asked themselves: How do you let every country in the Olympic games take part in making and lighting the Olympic Cauldron? Each of the 204 copper pieces was hammered by hand out of flat sheets using a craft technique that was used for restoring historic cars. Each Olympic team lit one piece during the opening ceremony. After the Olympic games were over all of the 204 pieces were sent to the participating countries.

Olympic Cauldron Scale Model: The Studio set out to design a moment that would be memorable throughout the Olympics. They ultimately asked themselves: How do you let every country in the Olympic games take part in making and lighting the Olympic Cauldron? Each of the 204 copper pieces was hammered by hand out of flat sheets using a craft technique that was used for restoring historic cars. Each Olympic team lit one piece during the opening ceremony. After the Olympic games were over all of the 204 pieces were sent to the participating countries.


No matter how large or small the project, the human perspective is always considered; what effect will the space have on people? How can it be better, a more positive experience?

Spun Chair I LOVE this chair- I can’t help but laugh every time I am SPUN.

Spun Chair I LOVE this chair- I can’t help but laugh every time I am SPUN.

London Bus: First new bus commission for the city of London in 50 years. More fuel efficient, better lighting, strategically placed windows.

London Bus: First new bus commission for the city of London in 50 years. More fuel efficient, better lighting, strategically placed windows.

 
Bombay Saphire Distillery

Bombay Saphire Distillery

Garden Bridge

Garden Bridge

As a designer, these are all things that ring very true for me. At Spacesmith the human perspective of every project is of utmost importance- otherwise what are we building spaces for?


Hearing others in the design realm speak about their practice enforces a collective reason for practicing design and architecture - to make a positive impact on human lives through design. And of course, to enjoy the creative process - dead ends and small victories.

Ambar Margarida, Associate, Interior Design