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Thomas Heatherwick, architect of sporting vision

Thomas Heatherwick, architect of sporting vision

For the 27million British people who tuned into to watch the Olympic opening ceremony last night it is not difficult to now champion the work of great British architect Thomas Heatherwick. As the throngs of athletes from all corners and continents of the globe were guided into the stadium they were lead by a child bearing a copper ‘petal’, though don’t think too dainty, these ‘petals’ must be around 40cm across and judging by the tiny strained arms of the carriers, a bit weighty too! It wasn’t until the final moments of the lighting of the Olympic cauldron that the use of these copper petals was revealed; arranged in concentric circles on the end of long poles the petals formed a dome-like shape similar to the head of a dandelion. As the olympic torch bearers approached this dome-like shape they lit a flame within 7 of the petals which then spread across the circles lighting each of the 204 copper petals which formed this spectacle. The copper petals, each on their own stalks, then rose together uniting to form the familiar lofty flaming cauldron visible across the stadium.

Thomas Heatherwick didn’t just create a pretty cauldron, yes it looked amazing, as an object it was arresting in its meticulous industrial yet natural construction but it also told a story. The clever way in which the pieces came together were one which symbolised perfectly the coming together of many nations for a common purpose.

This isn’t a first for Thomas Heatherwick, he has symbolised the feeling of athletes before, made tangible some of the emotion that is so difficult to describe. Heatherwick designed the ‘B of the Bang’ which stood outside the ‘sport city’ stadium in Manchester which played host to the Commonwealth games in 2002. The B of the Bang was based on the words of Linford Christie who described a huge spark and surge of energy as he heard the very start of the bang of the starting pistol when he was competing. A concept captured amazingly in visual sculptural form. It is rare for someone creative to connect so well with sporting ideas but Thomas Heatherwick shows that he is an architect of sporting vision.

Heatherwick studio is also responsible for more practical projects like the Spun chair (right) designed for Italian furniture brand Magis, where the user can sit in the chair and spin full circle in a way familiar to that of a rocking chair. Also the rolling bridge at Paddington which challenges every preconception about bridges being static, straight and overtly engineered.