How Heatherwick Studio Provides Small-Scale Encounters in a Large-Scale World

© Hufton + Crow

A casual observer might be forgiven for wondering how Thomas Heatherwick has developed such a reputation among architects. A scan of the works of Heatherwick Studio reveals relatively few completed buildings, and many of those that do make the list are small projects: kiosks, retail interiors, cafés. Indeed, to the average Londoner he is probably better known as the designer of the new homage to the iconic red Routemaster bus and as the creator of the wildly popular cauldron for the London 2012 Olympics - both unveiled in a year in which Heatherwick all but officially became the state-approved designer of 21st century Britain.

A look at the website of Heatherwick Studio sheds some light on this conundrum. With projects separated into “small,” “medium” and “large,” it is clear that a progression in scale is mirrored by a progression in time, with many of the smallest projects completed in the Studio’s early years, and most of those in the “large” category either recently completed or (more frequently) still on the drawing board. Their most recently completed project is also one of their largest, a “Learning Hub” for Nanyang Technical University in Singapore. How does a design studio that made its name in small projects adapt to such scale? ArchDaily spoke to Thomas Heatherwick about the Learning Hub and the increasing size of his projects to find out.

“A Truman Show-Style Nightmare”? Critics React to BIG and Heatherwick’s Designs for Google

© / BIG / Heatherwick Studio

In their designs for Google’s new headquarters, released last week amid much excitement, Bjarke Ingels and Thomas Heatherwick have taken cues from the utopian visions of the past to create a radical solution for the sprawling tech campus in Mountain View, California. Citing the lack of identifiable architecture in the technology sector, a promotional video on Google’s own blog reveals how the company plans to embrace nature, community, and flexibility with the new scheme.

Chief among the company’s concerns was creating a building capable of adapting to future uses in addition to serving as a neighborhood-enhancing environment to welcome visitors from the surrounding community. As with any news related to Google, the design has already attracted the attention of the media – read on after the break for our rundown of the most salient reviews so far.

See BIG & Heatherwick’s Design for Google’s California Headquarters

© Google / / Heatherwick Studio

Images have been unveiled of BIG and Heatherwick Studio’s design for Google’s Mountain View headquarters. The plan, submitted to city council today, proposes to redevelop and expand the company’s home office with a series of lightweight canopy-like structures organized within a flexible landscape of bicycle paths and commercial opportunities for local companies. 

“It’s the first time we’ll design and build offices from scratch and we hope these plans by Bjarke Ingels at BIG and Thomas Heatherwick at Heatherwick Studio will lead to a better way of working,” says Google. “The idea is simple. Instead of constructing immoveable concrete buildings, we’ll create lightweight block-like structures which can be moved around easily as we invest in new product areas… Large translucent canopies will cover each site, controlling the climate inside yet letting in light and air. With trees, landscaping, cafes, and bike paths weaving through these structures, we aim to blur the distinction between our buildings and nature.”

A video about the design and a statement from Bjarke Ingels and Thomas Heatherwick, after the break. 

Arup Reveals Image Of Heatherwick’s Garden Bridge ‘Cupro-Nickel’ Cladding

New image showing the copper-nickel (cupronickel) cladding. Image Courtesy of

Arup have released a new image of the proposed copper-nickel alloy cladding that will adorn Heatherwick Studio’s Garden Bridge in London. According to a report by the Architects’ Journal, the “concrete structure will be coated in ‘cupro-nickel‘, from its feet on the riverbed up to the base of the balustrades on the bridge deck.” The copper will be donated from Glencore, a multi-national mining company, forming ”a protective skin to the carbon steel structure giving it a maintenance free 120-year life, protecting the bridge from river and environmental corrosion.” More than 240 tonnes of the metal alloy, which often finds use in medical equipment and ship propellers, will be used.

Garden Bridge Gains Final Approval From Mayor of London

© Arup

London Mayor Boris Johnson has approved plans for the Thomas Heatherwick-designed Garden Bridge. The approval from the mayor is the third and final green light for the bridge, having previously been accepted by both Lambeth and Westminster councils. The project is now likely to begin construction within a year – in line with a self-imposed deadline by the Garden Bridge Trust that will allow them to complete the project before works on the proposed Thames Tideway Tunnel cause disruption on the site.

Westminster Council Approves Heatherwick’s Garden Bridge Plans

Courtesy of Arup

Update: Today Westminster Council approved the Garden Bridge proposals - the second of three required approvals - with councillors voting 3-1 in favour of the bridge. Though London Mayor Boris Johnson still has to officially rule on the plans, it is almost certain that he will ultimately give the go-ahead to the project as he has previously voiced his support for the idea. The following article was originally published on November 13th, after Lambeth Council granted the bridge its first approval.

Thomas Heatherwick Opens Up About His Design For Pier 55

© Pier55, Inc. and Heatherwick Studio

Last week, Thomas Heatherwick unveiled his fairytale-like designs for what will hopefully be New York‘s latest and most ambitious park, Pier 55 (with apologies to the High Line, ’s last ”next big thing” in the public park arena). Envisaged as an undulating artificial landscape on a cloud of mushroom-like supports, Pier 55 has the internet buzzing. In this interview with FastCo Design, Heatherwick discusses the inspirations behind his latest project, explaining how everything including New York’s street grid, the ruins of Pier 54 and yes, even the city’s other recent global green space phenomenon, have manifested themselves in his latest madcap creation. Read the full article here for more.

Garden Bridge Plans Face Fresh Attack After Initial Planning Permission

© Arup

After gaining the first in a series of required planning approvals last week, Thomas Heatherwick‘s highly controversial Garden Bridge proposal has once again come under fire from a variety of opponents, with campaign group Thames Central Open Space (TCOS) dubbing it a “luvvies’ folly,” and the Guardian’s architecture critic Oliver Wainwright saying that it is “not in fact a bridge – in the sense of being a public right of way across the river – but another privately managed tourist attraction, on which £60m of public money is to be lavished.”

Much of this new assault is the result of the 46 conditions which came with Lambeth Council’s recommendation to grant the bridge planning approval, which as BD Online uncovered, include closing the bridge between 12 and 6am, a ban on cycling, and a restriction of group sizes to 8 people or fewer, unless booked in advance.

Heatherwick Exhibitions Set to Tour US and Asia

Heatherwick Studio’s 2010 Shanghai Expo pavilion. Image © Daniele Mattioli

Thomas Heatherwick is set to expand his international reputation in the coming year, thanks to two exhibitions that will tour the United States and East Asia, reports the Architects’ Journal. The US exhibition, titled “Provocations: The Architecture and Design of Heatherwick Studio” will tour Dallas, LA and New York from September 2014 to October 2015. The Asia exhibit is yet to be formally announced, although it is believed it will begin in Singapore in Spring 2015. Read on after the break for more details of the exhibitions.

Thomas Heatherwick Selected for Latest Maggie’s Centre

Heatherwick’s trademark ingenuity, demonstrated in previous projects such as the Garden Bridge proposal, will be needed for the difficult site in . Image © Arup

The Maggie’s cancer charity has announced Thomas Heatherwick as the latest high-profile designer who will contribute to the Maggie’s Centre program, with a site at the new Bexley Wing of St James’s University Hospital in Leeds. The new centre will be the first Maggie’s in Yorkshire, with Heatherwick joining the likes of Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry and Steven Holl in the list of Maggie’s Centre designers.

More on the appointment after the break

Does London Really Need the Garden Bridge?

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In an interesting analysis in the Guardian, Olly Wainwright draws attention to the questionable process by which of Thomas Heatherwick‘s Garden Bridge proposal has gained such strong support from the British government. It is, according to Wainwright, the product of “one voguish designer, one national treasure and one icon-hungry mayor” – however he contends that compared to other more needed potential bridges over the Thames, the Garden Bridge may just be ”a spectacular solution to a problem that doesn’t really exist,” and a terrific waste of infrastructure funds. You can read the article in full here.

Leading Architects Come Together for London’s Summer Exhibition

The Architecture Room. Image Courtesy of Royal Academy of Arts

The Royal Academy of Arts’ annual Summer Exhibition is the world’s largest open submission exhibition providing “a unique platform for emerging and established artists to showcase their works to an international audience.” From 12,000 total works of art, spanning a complete range of disciplines, 140 architectural works have been selected and hung by Royal Academician and Architect Eric Parry, after some early dialogue with former RIBA President Sir Richard MacCormac. Work featured this year includes a model by Thomas Heatherwick and prints by Louisa Hutton of Sauerbruch Hutton, alongside Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid, Nicholas Grimshaw, Richard Rogers and Eva Jiřičná.

The Hudson Yards – New Development, “Smart” Development

Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s “Culture Shed” is awaiting approval, but other projects are already underway in the 28 Acre Hudson Yards development. Image Courtesy of Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Rockwell Group

The largest private project  has seen in over 100 years may also be the smartest. In a recent article on Engadget, Joseph Volpe explores the resilience of high-tech ideas such as clean energy and power during Sandy-style storms. With construction on the platform started, the Culture Shed awaiting approval, and Thomas Heatherwick designing a 75-Million dollar art piece and park – the private project is making incredible headway. But with the technology rapidly evolving, how do investors know the technology won’t become obsolete before its even built?

Heatherwick to Transform Cape Town’s Grain Silo into Contemporary Art Museum

Interior. Image Courtesy of

Imagine forty-two, 33 meter high concrete tubes each with a diameter of 5.5 meters, with no open space to experience the volume from within. The brief from the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) for -based Heatherwick Studio was to “reimagine the Grain Silo Complex at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront with an architectural intervention inspired by its own historic character,” calling for a “solution unique for Africa” in order to create “the highest possible quality of exhibition space for the work displayed inside.” Heatherwick’s response will be the creation of a “a new kind of museum in an African context.”

OMA, Foster + Partners, Heatherwick Studio Recruited to Design ‘Faena District’ of Miami Beach

Faena Center. Image Courtesy of Faena

Alan Faena — prominent argentine developer  — is partnering with an all-star cast of celebrated artists, architects and Hollywood darlings to revive the decadence of the roaring twenties, envisioning a booming cultural “epicenter” for the city of Miami. The development, Faena Miami Beach, would include the restoration of the historic Saxony Hotel (the original symbol of opulent resorts along Florida beaches), the construction of new luxury apartments by Foster + Partners and the Rem Koolhaas/OMA-designed Faena Arts Center and Artist Residency. Review them all after the break.

Heatherwick Tapped to Design $75 Million Icon for NYC

Pavilion for Shanghai World Expo 2010 / Heatherwick Studio. Image © Daniele Mattioli

Related Companies founder Stephen Ross has commissioned London designer and architect Thomas Heatherwick to design what could be, according to the Wall Street Journal, “one of the most expensive works of public in the world.” Planned to be the centerpiece of Related’s Hudson Yards project in Manhattan’s West Side, the estimated $75 million artwork and its surrounding 4-acre public space aims to become “new icon for the city.”

Designer Thomas Heatherwick is Star Guest at Hay Festival Segovia 2012

© Elena Heatherwick

Hay Festival Segovia just announced that UK designer Thomas Heatherwick will be the keynote speaker for the architecture and design sessions at the Spanish edition of Hay Festival set to take place in September 27-30. In an hour-long conversation entitled The Truffle Pig Process, Thomas Heatherwick will be talking to Martha Thorne, executive director of the Pritzker Architecture Prize and associate dean of external relations at IE School of Architecture & Design (IE University), about his studio’s creative process and the increasingly blurred borders between design, architecture and society. More information on the event after the break.

2012 Olympic Cauldron / Thomas Heatherwick

One of the “best-kept secrets” of the opening ceremony was the Thomas Heatherwick-designed 2012 Olympic cauldron that dazzled viewers world-wide last night as it was ignited by seven young British athletes in a very unique lighting ceremony.

Representing each nation competing in the Olympics, 204 “very small humble” copper petals were carried out alongside national flags and competitors – each inscribed with the name of the country and the words “XX Olympiad 2012”. The petals were then attached to long, stainless steel stems that formed ten rings that appeared as an open flower. Once ignited, the flames quickly spread to each petal and then gently rose up to unite as a single flame.

Continue after the break for more on the design.