The power of a good show is to make visitors of all levels of expertise feel as though they’ve gained a secret drip of knowledgeable nectar or nugget of understanding. That’s exactly what happens at the Heatherwick Studio: Designing the Extraordinary exhibition on at the V&A now, which gives us wonderfully detailed access to Thomas Heatherwick’s workshop and all the wisdom that dances inside.
On entering it’s like a vaulted archive, dimly lit with spotlights focusing on large photographs, prototypes and perspex boxes filled with preliminary models and material fragments like piles of well-designed treasure. Everything has this glimmer and beauty to it, with ‘do not touch’ signs dotted around, pushing my magpie instincts to the limit.
Grouped in clusters there’s no chronology or strict path to follow in the exhibition, rather it focuses on loose themes like design process, materiality and fabrication and the structures and form of buildings. It’s a real insight into how his workshop operates, highlighting the importance of investigation to the studio as whole and their experiments in which they consider the physical behaviour of materials and how they can be used to define the form of a building (not just provide surface detail or decoration).
Shown are the details of some of Heatherwick’s most impressive structures, like the rod tips of the Seed Cathedral that have a different seed suspended in each of them like ice cubes and the Play Doh advert that inspired the whole project to begin with. It’s these touches that condense everything into manageable portions.
But there’s a part of me that did want to see all these magnificent structures and installations stacked up together in real life, like spokes of the B of the Bang or the ribbon staircase of the Longchamp store, as it was sometimes difficult to really immerse yourself in everything with the plinths and boxes preventing true walk-around freedom. However smelling the wood of the scale-models and gazing at the cool glazed glass spheres of the Bleigiessen lined up in an egg box-like container were beautiful and will have to suffice for now until a guided world tour of his works is available through Thomas Cook.
With the breadth of work on display it’s a real celebration not just of Heatherwick’s work but of British design as well. Collated together you realise that the work Heatherwick Studio have produced and are in the process of creating is remarkable and with more of an understanding of their design practice, it’s increased my appreciation tenfold.
- Meet the speakers: Dougal Wilson, Ewen Spencer, GraphicDesign& and Gal-dem
- Claire Hentschker: the artist who recreated The Shining as an interactive 3D space
- Rosanna Webster and Phoebe Henry’s cinematic portrait of Cuba
- Alex Hunting’s crisp editorial designs are considered and multi-layered
- Raine Allen Miller’s latest ad shows kids experiencing the “side effects” of tech toys
- Colin Pantall's warm depiction of childhood and fatherhood taken over 12 years
- Parker Day's lurid colours and grotesque characters elevate identity and fantasy (NSFW)
- Paper reveals Break the Internet take two, with Nicki Minaj shot by Ellen von Unwerth
- Bea de Giacomo photographs the wonders of pregnancy
- Matthieu Lavanchy recreates food emojis "irl" for The Gourmand's tenth issue
- Introducing Broccoli, the publication “normalising cannabis use, especially for women”
- One Step Ahead: we meet Paula Scher, the trailblazing Pentagram Partner