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Top 5 Thomas Heatherwick Building Projects

The B1M | 5:06

Top 5 Thomas Heatherwick Building Projects

Tom Ravenscroft

10 May 2017

Video Views

DESCRIBED by Vanity Fair as the "hottest designer in the world today", the multifaceted Thomas Heatherwick, founder and design director of Heatherwick Studio, has designed everything from buses to furniture and numerous impressive works of architecture.

He is currently working on some of the world's most exciting projects, including the spectacular pier 55 floating park in New York and Google’s new London headquarters, a collaboration with Bjarke Ingels.

Here we look at five projects that cemented Heatherwick's status as one of the world's top designers.


Before Heatherwick was working on the world's most prestigious projects, he was turning his hand to solving smaller scale problems.

Demonstrating an innovative approach to design that has become a hallmark of the Heatherwick Studio, the architect's early Rolling Bridge is a pedestrian crossing like no other.

Above: Heatherwick's Rolling Bridge demonstrates his innovative approach design ( image courtesy of Loz Pycock).

Situated in London’s Paddington Basin the moveable bridge can retract allowing boats to pass.

While the majority of opening bridges have a single rigid element, this extraordinary structure is constructed from eight triangular segments, hinged at the walkway level, that fold the bridge open under the control of hydraulic pistons.

This causes the bridge to curl into an octagon, which sits on the canal side.


In 2010 Heatherwick propelled himself onto the global stage with his spectacular pavilion at the Shanghai expo.

Created for the UK government, the pavilion was designed to standout among the hundreds of competing pavilions at the largest expo ever held.

Above: The spectacular Seed Cathedral won the gold award for best pavilion at the Shanghai expo  (image courtesy of Iwan Baan). 

Rising to this challenge, Heatherwick created the Seed Cathedral. The structure is a simple 50 foot (15 metre) tall box through which 60,000 transparent acrylic rods protrude, each with a 'seed' embedded in its tip.

Above: The Seed Cathedral contains 60,000 transparent acrylic rods ( image courtesy of  Daniele Mattioni ).

The 25 foot (7.5 meter) long strands move gently in the breeze giving the cube a shimmering effect.

In total 73 million people visited the six month expo. Heatherwick's construction won the gold award for best pavilion design, along with the RIBA Lubetkin Prize for the most outstanding work of international architecture.


In Cape Town Heatherwick is reinventing an abandoned grain silo as a not-for-profit cultural institution, housing the most significant collection of contemporary art from Africa.

The historic structure is made up of 42 vertical concrete tubes, each 110 feet (33 metres) tall.

Above: A large ellipse is carved from the silo (image courtesy of Heatherwick Studio).

As it has no large central space an ellipse is being carved out of the densely packed silos to create a grand atrium.

Once completed in 2017 the structure will provide over 65,00 square feet (6,000 square metres) of gallery space around this central atrium together with a rooftop sculpture garden, art conservation facility, bookshops, cafe and restaurant.


In Singapore, Heatherwick designed an academic building with no corridors.

Built for the Nanyang Technological University, the learning hub aims to redefine the aspirations of a university building.

Aware of the changing nature of education within the age of internet, where students can learn anywhere, Heatherwick created a building that fosters togetherness and sociability.

Above: The Hive is an academic building with no corridors (image courtesy of Hufton + Crow).

Abandoning traditional classroom arrangements, at the Hive each teaching space opens onto a shared circulation space around the central atrium.

This arrangement creates a dynamic environment, encouraging incidental interactions between students and teaching staff.


Topping our list is "The Vessel", Heatherwick’s 150-foot (45 metre) high center piece for the vast Hudson Yards development in New York.

While the Hive has no corridors, this structure is composed entirely of stairs.

Above: The Vessel is a viewing platform made entirely of stairs (image courtesy of Heatherwick Studio/ Forbes Massie).

Re-imagining an observation tower, the USD $150 million structure rises to the height of 15-stories and consists of 154 flights of stairs connecting some 80 viewing platforms.

When complete, the project, which was inspired by the ancient step wells of India, promises to be a viewing tower like no other.

Other projects that didn’t quite make our list, but are of course worthy of mention include, the Bombay Sapphire Distillery in the UK; the redevelopment of an historic distillery for the famous gin maker.

Above: Google Charleston East didn't make our list, but looks set to be an impressive building (image courtesy of Heatherwick Studio).

There's also Google Charleston East; a 595,000 square foot (55,000 square metre) canopied campus for the tech giant in California...

And of course, the Olympic Cauldron – the centrepiece of London’s 2012 Olympic Games.

What's your favourite Thomas Heatherwick project? Let us know in the comments below or on our social media channels.


This video was kindly powered by Viewpoint.


Images courtesy of Heatherwick Studio, Andy Stagg, Daniele Mattioli, Loz Pycock, Iwan Baan, On the Waterfront, Hufton + Crow, Forbes Massie and Visual House / Nelson Byrd Woltz.

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