Thomas Heatherwick

For collapsing the walls within design.

Thomas Heatherwick
Atrium of the Learning Hub, Singapore [Photo: courtesy of Hufton & Crow]

Thomas Heatherwick’s portfolio includes the London Olympic cauldron, a double-decker bus, handbags, and a revamped factory for Bombay Sapphire’s headquarters. His current projects include a $130 million floating park on New York’s West Side that will feature landscaped “hills” and a 700-seat amphitheater, and, in partnership with Bjarke Ingels, the interior and exterior of Google’s massive new California campus (set for completion in phases from 2020 to 2025). Some people call this work “multidisciplinary,” but Heatherwick disputes that characterization. “It’s one discipline: solving functional problems and trying to make a difference.” “Inspiration” doesn’t figure much into his process either. Rather, his designs result from a process of analysis and deduction rooted in a childhood hobby: programming in BASIC. “It’s just lines of logic: If this, then this,” he says. “That’s how we work.”


Bonus Round

Where or how do you seek out creative inspiration?

We use continuous questioning to reach design solutions, rather than waiting for inspiration to strike.

What is one thing about your job that you think would surprise people?

How long it takes to arrive at a good idea.

What’s your favorite Twitter or Instagram account and why?

I spend very little time on social media.

How do you keep track of everything you have to do?

I have some very good people around me that help me manage my time.

What are some things you do to refresh your mind when you’re in a rut?

I talk with the fantastic people in my studio.

Who outside of your field inspires you the most and why?

I’m interested in all people who manage to make special things happen.

Bombay Sapphire Distillery in Laverstoke, U.K.Photo: Iwan Baan
The Cauldron at the London Olympic Games, 2012. Photo: Edmund Sumner
The recently completed Learning Hub at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.Photo: Hufton & Crow
Inside the UK Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo 2010.Photo: Iwan Baan
The Heatherwick-designed Garden Bridge, spanning the River Thames in London.Photo: Arup

About the author

Jeff Chu writes on international affairs, social issues, and design for Fast Company. His first book, Does Jesus Really Love Me?: A Gay Christian's Pilgrimage in Search of God in America, was published by HarperCollins in April 2013.