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.”