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WAF finale: Heatherwick reveals Olympic cauldron design process

Thomas Heatherwick, designer of the Seed Pavilion for the Shanghai Expo and the London Olympic Cauldron, spoke to a full house at the final keynote address of WAF on Friday evening in Singapore

In a speech accompanied by drawings, photos and video footage of completed works, Heatherwick of Heatherwick Studio described the creative process behind the cauldron, the seed pavilion, the London Routemaster bus, and a new Learning Hub for Nanxing University.

Regarding the cauldron, Heatherwick confessed his early anxiety over the brief.

‘I realised a cauldron was just a bowl on a stick, and I had a vision of whatever we designed just sitting there in the Olympic Park ten years after the Games with pigeon poo on it.’

Instead, Heatherwick decided the cauldron should symbolise the peaceful coming together of international athletes, and their subsequent scattering after a brief two weeks.

‘I was told, “No moving parts”.

‘At a time when we are less religious, we don’t have things that bring us together.

‘I realised that the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympic Games is religious. There’s a very precise ceremonial aspect, and the stadium is a temple to that.’

Heatherwick also joked about having broken the one rule specified by the cauldron brief: ‘I was told, “No moving parts”. The cauldron had over 200 copper flower stems and petals, which rose and came together to shape the basin.

Heatherwick said the copper ‘petals’, which were each unique in shape and size, and engraved with a country’s name, are now being shipped to the nations.

Describing their blackened and tarnished appearances, Heatherwick said: ‘All petals have the imprint of the heat from those two weeks.’

Images of the cauldron and the seed pavilion were met by the audience with spontaneous applause.

Heatherwick’s talk was the final keynote address of this year’s WAF, which was attended by 1,800 delegates from over 60 countries.


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