New British Inventors: Inside Heatherwick Studio

Curator Kate Goodwin

New British Inventors: Inside Heatherwick Studio

The London based Heatherwick Studio epitomises the spirit of invention of a new wave of British designers. Featuring drawings, models, films and test pieces generated by speculative and built projects from the past 20 years, the exhibition is a window into the studio who has renowned for projects such as the UK Pavilion at Shanghai Expo 2010. It offers unique insights into the ideas and experiments that go into realising projects that span architecture and engineering, as well as furniture, sculpture and product design. Curated by Kate Goodwin, Drue Heinz Curator at the Royal Academy of Arts, and designed by Heatherwick Studio, the exhibition captures the studio’s spirit of discovery, demonstrating their imaginative and entrepreneurial approach to design. 

World-renowned designer and creator of the iconic UK Pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai Expo, Thomas Heatherwick, is the focus of a new exhibition that comes to China as part of the 2015 UK-China Year of Cultural Exchange. 

The UK is widely recognised as a global leader in contemporary architecture and design. The New British Inventors: Inside Heatherwick Studio exhibition showcases some of the best of British innovation in the field.  

Curated by Kate Goodwin (Drue Heinz Curator at the Royal Academy of Arts) and designed by Heatherwick Studio, the exhibition explores the rigorous process of critical thinking and questioning that goes into the studio’s design process, with finished projects shown alongside experiments with form and materials.

Established by Thomas Heatherwick in 1994, Heatherwick Studio is recognised for its work in architecture, urban infrastructure, design and strategic thinking. At the heart of the studio’s work is a profound commitment to finding innovative design solutions, with a dedication to artistic thinking and the latent potential of materials and craftsmanship. Today a team of 170, including architects, designers and makers work from a combined studio and workshop in Kings Cross, London.

Highlights on display, exemplifying the UK as a pioneer in design, will include:

•    Process models and full-size construction pieces of Heatherwick Studio’s Learning Hub - the form and structure of the Hub generates a new learning environment with oval classrooms bringing students and teachers together to learn in the round. Twelve stacks of tutorial classrooms, interspersed with gardens, rise around a naturally ventilated central atrium. 

•    A model of the UK Pavilion, Shanghai World Expo (2010) - a cube made up of 60,000 clear acrylic rods each 7.5m long that linked inside and out. 250,000 seeds from the Millennium Seed Bank were placed in the end of the rods creating a magical ‘seed cathedral’ inside. At the close of the Expo the ends of the rods were distributed to people across the world. 

•    A model and film of the Olympic Cauldron, London (2012) - a collection of copper pieces, one for each of the 204 participating countries, carried in to the stadium with the teams during the Opening Ceremony.

•    A model of the Rolling Bridge, Paddington, London (2004) - a structure where the kinetic movement is integral to the design, will be shown alongside sketchbooks and images illustrating the evolution both of its design and engineering. 

Other exhibits include a dedicated distillery and visitors centre for the English gin-maker Bombay Sapphire; the New Bus for London (2012); and furniture design from throughout the studio’s career.

Architectural Works of Heatherwick Studio

Learning Hub, photograph: Hufton and Crow,2015

the UK Pavilion, Shanghai World Expo

UK Pavilion, Shanghai World Expo (2010)

the Olympic Cauldron, London

Olympic Cauldron


Garden Bridge

the Rolling Bridge, Paddington, London

the New Bus for London