On Friday I had a double whammy of Heatherwick Studio inspiring design. I went to the V&A to the exhibition Heatherwick Studio: Designing the Extraordinary then watched the Olympic opening ceremony with great delight and high expectation for an impressive and quirky cauldron. I was not disappointed. The cauldron lighting moment didn’t need someone scaling a wall or shooting an arrow at it to be impressive. True to Heatherwick Studio form the cauldron was a novel and elegant take on it splitting it into separate pieces that moved in sync at the end to create a whole in a neat analogy of the Olympics themselves. Having each county bare a copper petal which completed the cauldron in front of everyone during the ceremony nodded at the unity that the Olympics represents (albeit briefly) between countries creating a performance out of the cauldron. Heatherwick Studio frequently gains a lot of press but at the moment his studio is being talked about even more with this latest feat of the cauldron.
The exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum is in the small space of the Porter Gallery yet manages to pack in the many diverse projects of Heatherwick Studio’s young yet prolific existence. There are large models of bridges, animations of ideas such as the wonderful Rolling Bridge in Paddington Basin, the end of one of the number 38 buses, samples of materials and even one of the acrylic spikes holding a seed amber style at its point from Seed Cathedral. The space is dotted with telephones to pick up playing extracts from Heatherwick and associates in conversation with curators.
To get your exhibition guide you even have to do something out of the ordinary. There is a big pile of cogs and wheels at the entrance to the exhibition holding reels of the exhibition guide. You have to crank a handle to move the wheels which feed the reel of guides and then tear one off! Fun! Being handed an exhibition guide from a member of staff is now so boring.
Despite all the fantastically innovative projects on a commercial scale, my favourite part of the exhibition is towards the end: the display of Thomas’s Christmas cards that use the postage stamp as its springboard. One “card” is made from a small wooden box with four postage stamps on the lid that is split into quarters, a drawstring on the back of the box is then pulled which lifts up the quarters to reveal the message. Another is a play on the stamps’ glue with a dozen or so stamps stuck to each other to create a Christmas decoration which was then dipped in resin to fix it.
I’m sure this exhibition is already very popular but post Olympic cauldron I think there may be a massive influx of new design fans making their way to learn more about this wonderful innovator.