Thomas Heatherwick

U.K. (1970)

The work of Thomas Heatherwick and his Heatherwick Studio in London tends to spark wonder wherever it is. Vessel, for instance, a 15-story jungle gym of staircases, attracted a weeks-long waiting list of would-be climbers and Instagram posters when it opened in early 2019 in NYC’s Hudson Yards. His cauldron at the 2012 Olympics in London, with a flaming copper bowl for each participating country, had people oohing and aahing all over the world once lit. And his Spun Chair, a virtual grin-generator, brings as much joy to onlookers as to orbiting sitters.


His studio has earned a reputation for an innovative approach to projects spanning a wide range of disciplines, from architecture and engineering to industrial design and project management. “Working as practical inventors with no signature style, our motivation is to design soulful and interesting places which embrace and celebrate the complexities of the real world,” says the designer of his team. “The approach driving everything is to lead from human experience rather than any fixed design dogma.”


The studio takes its cue from Heatherwick, a London native who loved to build stretching back to boyhood. Encouraged by his parents, he made things such as mechanical greeting cards and even a go-kart. Heatherwick studied 3-D design at Manchester Polytechnic (now Manchester Metropolitan University) before earning a master’s in furniture from the Royal College of Arts.


His projects, which focus on engaging people, fall into four major categories: buildings, spaces, infrastructure and objects. Landmark undertakings in progress include 1,000 Trees in Shanghai, China, an incorporation of living landscapes into two mountainous buildings, and Pier 55 in NYC, which elevates a 2.4-acre park in the Hudson River on nearly 300 pilings.

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