Decoding Design

Do you have to be an architect to make buildings?

Do you have to be an architect to make buildings?

Posting in Architecture

A profile of Thomas Heatherwick, designer of the new London hybrid double decker buses and the Seed Pavilion, says no.

Thomas Heatherwick is not an architect, but lately he and his studio have been designing a lot of buildings. A profile in Intelligent Life observes that the designer may be the future of British architecture. Heatherwick's pragmatic yet inventive designs make it easy to believe.

Heatherwick is most well known for the Seed Cathedral, the British pavilion with bristles at the 2010 Shanghai Expo; an ingenious bridge in Paddington Basin that curls up, and most recently the redesigned buses in London.

The designer likes to make things, a propensity that led him away from architecture earlier in his career when he discovered that architecture is mostly a service profession and most architects never pick up a brick. His approach to design leaves theory and abstraction behind and focuses on form, material, and construction as well as the uniqueness of a place.

Unlike other design professions, there is no beta testing in architecture. Thomas Heatherwick is redefining the profession by treating architecture as any other art that requires practice.

“I knew I was interested in building, but the architectural world at the time just didn’t feel right, it felt very theoretical. It was like it was its own art-form, whereas I saw it as an extension of design, designing things that do jobs and also have many dimensions — environmental, material, craft, aesthetic, sculptural, a smell dimension. And then suddenly I discovered there was this threshold, bajoom…where it became something else, architecture! I was interested in ideas becoming reality. You could have your perfect world of models and drawings that would always be perfect, but it is reality where you really learn.”

Watch a video of Heatherwick's curling bridge below:

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Sun Kim

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Sun Joo Kim is an architect and creative consultant based in Boston. Her projects include design and master planning of museums, public institutions, hospitals, and university buildings across the U.S. She holds a degree from Carnegie Mellon University and is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure