Thomas Heatherwick founded Heatherwick Studio in 1994 to make unique design projects happen. His team of architects, designers, and makers work from a combined studio and workshop in King’s Cross, central London. The Studio’s projects range from bridges and buildings to products and large-scale works of public art.
Heatherwick was born in London in 1970. As his entry in the Design Museum notes, “His mother—a collector and dealer in beads—influenced his aesthetic development while his father introduced him to architecture and design.” He studied 3D design at Manchester Polytechnic, graduating in 1991. He then completed a degree at the Royal Academy of Art, founding his studio soon after graduating.
An indication of the range of Heatherwick’s work is evident in the three categories used to organize the studio’s projects on its website: small, medium, and large. The Spun Chair is among the “small” projects. Spun came out of research into the geometric simplification of a familiar object type and experimentation into materials and processes.
That same spirit is evident in a recent project, the Seed Cathedral for the UK Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo 2010. Sixty thousand fiber-optic rods protrude from a steel and timber composite structure in a pin-cushion effect. During the day, the rods draw daylight inward to illuminate the interior. At night, light sources inside each rod allow the whole structure to glow. As the wind moves past, the building and its optic “hairs” gently move to create a dynamic effect.
Work such as Spun and Seed Cathedral have resulted in numerous awards for the studio. In addition, Heatherwick is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects and a Senior Fellow at the Royal College of Art. And, he is the youngest practitioner to be appointed a Royal Designer for Industry.