Having this gig at One Stop Arts means that I snoop around exhibitions for them, then write about it and hand it over to their website and then feel guilty about having nothing to put on here…so I end up going to several exhibitions a week, which is pretty nice really. I am still an unemployed graduate so I may as well use my time to my advantage. Yes? Yes. I’m not wasting time? No? No.
First up was Heatherwick Studio at the V&A which I dragged the old father along to for ‘a bit of cultchaaah’.
I applied to work at Heatherwick this summer as I’ve done some of that art fabrication bother before, however they sent me a very nice email back saying my CAD skills are not up to scratch (oh so true!) and so sorry but no – and after seeing their exhibition I now know why!
The V&A never fail to put on an excellent show and this is no exception. Even before you get inside the space, you’re greeted by children happily rolling around the floor inside giant spinning-top-style chairs named ‘Spun Corailis’, then not handed a programme but instructed to wind it yourself out of a giant clock-mechanism come Charlie and the Chocolate Factory machine type thing – it’s all too exciting and weird for words! I definitely did feel like I’d just entered Willy Wonka’s wonderland, and the beautifully curvaceous buildings and innovative designs really do beat a river of chocolate for me – although I’m sure Thomas Heatherwick would have no trouble producing that!
Anyway, instead of me wittering on about every little piece of this show (there are about one hundred projects to get through), I’m going to throw out a top ten and that should be enough to bore you sufficiently.
10. Thomas Heatherwick’s first ever piece of making: Throne, 1989
I wasn’t allowed to take photos, there are none on the ‘net – so I’m afraid here we have a terrible doodle courtesy of moi! The whole idea is based around the suspension of old fashioned prams and the curves of carriages, I suppose you could say it comments lightly on how we used to pop babies in these grandiose prams and wheel them about like royalty but I think it’s more about the aesthetics. The seat area is just made of lengths of rusty metal, bent into these spirals, all propped up on four little wooden legs. Simple but very elegant.
9. Next up is this electricity pylon – sound boring? Well, I like it!
Electricity pylons are – unlike those controversial wind turbines – ugly. They’re dotted around our countryside as if it’s some sort of pin cushion and I do not like it! These on the other hand are made of netting so as to disappear into the backdrop, whilst also connoting more natural forms like spiders webs or watery ripples.
8. Bleigessen, London.
Unfortunately I’ve seen this piece publicised too much to be excited about it, but what I liked was that the idea came from dropping molten metal into ice water. I’d done this at school and forgotten the effect was that it disperses into thousands of tiny twirls of silver suspended in the water – just like Bleigessen appears to float. This piece had to be huge in its final form, but to be able to fit through one of the tiny windows in the WellcomeTrust’s Gibbs building; Heatherwick did better and this piece fits through a mailbox – hurrah!
7. Gin! Oh Gin. It’s a distillery for Bombay Sapphire, which was once Laverstoke Mill.
This disused nineteenth century watermill is Hampshire has been developed into a distillery complete with hand-blown glasshouses, inside of which grow the plants which featured in Bombay Sapphire’s Victorian recipe. It’s not quite finished yet but will be complete with a Visitor Centre and Gin tasting – brilliant!
6. I have to put it in don’t I… The Olympic torch thing.
It is a beautiful work of art, and an incredibly complex design feat, but I’m trying to escape reminiscing about those two manic weeks as much as possible. Still, it was fantastic to see one of the cauldron’s copper petals close up, they’re each a delicate oil slick of greens and golds.
5. This catamaran is intended to transport people along the Loire River, France which has recently been filled with an assortment of ‘phenomenal artworks’.
The intention was to create a boat with no front or back, which emulates the curves of the river and from which passengers can view the artworks from anywhere on board. Looks like an escalator melted in my opinion, but nicely.
4. Towers of Silence: A dakma aviary in Mumbai which aims to help maintain traditional Parsi ceremony for the dead.
This project fascinated me: members of the Parsi religion leave their dead exposed to the elements and to be eaten by vultures. However due to a decline in the vulture population, this tradition is under threat; this aviary will support the vulture population, and house the bodies and is shrouded by trees to protect both the privacy of the dead and the sanity of those walking past.
3. Old Airport Road park, Abu Dhabi
Based on the cracks in dehydrated earth, this canopy covers a huge area in the hot deserts of Abu Dhabi to provide a green park space for children to play, and people to read and relax without burning to a singe. Practical and beautiful – and it would look incredible from the air!
2. Close to home: East Beach Cafe, Littlehampton
This cafe sits on the beach like a piece of washed up driftwood, part of a quintessentially English beach scene. Made of pre-rusted steel and coated in oil, it is enduring to the elements and beats the tacky white and blue beach huts adorned with dolphins and seashells found on many British beaches. Definitely an excuse for a ‘cultural’ beach day.
1. The rolling bridge.
Go to the V&A on a Friday afternoon and you can see the maquettes in action; these bridges come in many different forms and basically work as a hi-tech version of your traditional lifting bridge. Currently there is a small one living in Paddington Basin which allows pedestrians to cross, or canal boats to come through – however there are plans for a much larger bridge which folds neatly into two hearts atop the supporting posts, or for a modern take on the Chinese moon bridge. The moon bridge could sit up to allow boats to come through, but be brought down into a level snake shape to allow wheel chairs across. It’s worth going to the exhibition on a Friday to see this lot in action, and to ask one of the lovely guys from the studio lots of irritating questions…
So yes, there is a not-very-concise, or aesthetically pleasing summary of the Heatherwick Studio’s Designing The Extraordinary. It’s a fantastic exhibition with so much information it’s almost difficult to absorb, however you’re left knowing exactly how and why these incredible projects are made – all both functional and beautiful, some for good causes, some solely for the ridiculously wealthy and some made just because Heatherwick can.
I’d better get my CAD skills up to scratch!