From the new London bus to the humble beach cafe, British designer Thomas Heatherwick's work is everywhere. And now it is the subject of a new exhibition: Heatherwick Studio: Designing the Extraordinary at London's Victoria & Albert Museum.
Heatherwick started his practice, Heatherwick Studio, in 1994 and from the start was interested in looking at the relationship between architectural design and craftsmanship. His work defies definition, with projects that include furniture, engineering, sculpture and urban planning.These spinning stools were nominated in 2011 for a Design Award. Called Spun, and made out of moulded plastic, they look like sculpture but are a comfortable and functional chair.
The show is jammed into too small a space which makes it frustrating and hard to follow. It is supposed to look like his studio but there is so much work on view in the form of models, prototypes, films, and photos that it all becomes a jumble. However, his playfulness and ingenuity shine through. As in this wonderful canopy at the entrance to the museum, made out of traffic cones.
The new Routemaster bus in London was designed by Heatherwick Studios. The new curvy, highly styled bus is just about on the road now: there is one #38 bus making its way around a part of London.
The Seed Cathedral for the Shanghai World Expo in 2010 has to be one of his most remarkable works. It is a rounded cube made of 60,000 Perspex rods, each embedded with a seed from Kew Gardens' Millennium Seed Bank. It floated with the wind, as each rod moves.
This rolling bridge is a little pedestrian bridge behind an office building. It has to fold up to allow a boat in and out. The Rolling Bridge "opens by slowly and smoothly curling until it transforms from a conventional, straight bridge, into a circular sculpture which sits on the bank of the canal".
The gallery guide to the exhibit is a wonderful example of Heatherwick's sense of fun. It was created with the same engineers who made the rolling bridge, and is a DIY machine that delivers the recycled paper guide to patrons by their cranking the handle until the pink cut line comes up.