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Triumphant Heatherwick sets Games alight: plans, models and reaction


The AJ can revealed the first drawings and models of Thomas Heatherwick’s show-stopping London 2012 Olympic cauldron, which was kept firmly under wraps until last Friday’s spectacular opening ceremony

The much-praised centrepiece of the event had been hidden in a ‘Bond gadget’ in Harrogate before it was dramatically unveiled to mark the start of the Games (see plans attached right).

A 1:10 scale model of the cauldron will be on show at the V&A Exhibition, Heatherwick Studio – Designing the Extraordinary, from 29 July.

On Friday 5 October, Thomas Heatherwick will be giving the keynote speech at this year’s World Architecture Festival which takes place at the Moshe Safdie-designed Marina Bay Sands resort in Singapore from 3 to 5 October.

A model of Thomas Heatherwick's Olympic 2012 cauldron, currently on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London 2012

Source: Copyright Victoria and Albert Museum

A model of Thomas Heatherwick’s Olympic 2012 cauldron, currently on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London 2012

Comment: Hanif Kara of engineers AKT II

Anyone who had doubts about Thomas Heatherwick’s ingenuity will by now have cast them aside after the spectacular lighting of the Olympic flame. The brief, he told me, was ‘no moving parts’ but in the final product every part moves. The 16-tonne cauldron is formed on eight steel rings to which 8.5m-tall stainless steel stems are mounted. There was client pressure to locate it on the roof, as others have in the past, but then it would have to be much bigger. The 204 copper petals, handmade by panel beaters, are each engraved with the name of a country and each has a unique geometry. Why? I asked. ‘Because each country is different,’ he smiled. Each was carried in by a representative to add to the suspense and will return to each country as a keepsake. This is the most ‘inclusive’ aspect of the design. It defies those that say designers celebrate individuality. Each ‘petal’ has its own gas supply and ignition. Even after replaying it several times, it wasn’t until I saw Heatherwick at the V&A that I appreciated the choreography of the geometry which was carefully ‘scripted’ to rise in a move that bunches the stems into a coherent whole. What we should value is the grit and persistence of the two years it took to get to that superb moment. The feelings of delight that we all experienced will, I hope, lead to making us more creative. Heatherwick found a way to transform fragments of art, science, brief, emotion, cultures, disciplines, senses and theatre into a new kind of cauldron reaching across the world and across generations. He wasn’t just designing a cauldron, he was rewriting the possibilities of design.

Comment: Ken Shuttleworth of Make Architects

Style 9.9, technical difficulty 9.9, delivery 9.9 … and the Gold goes to Thomas Heatherwick for the most amazing cauldron in the history of the Olympic Games. Usually the cauldron is a bowl on a stick, but such is the inventiveness of surely Britain’s most creative and original designer that it was a symbolic triumph that transcends all its predecessors. Above all it was so enjoyably risky; moving parts, gas, fire, children and millions of people watching around the world - a fraught combination which just had to work on the night. And it did. Actually being at the ceremony and seeing it for real was such a privilege. Without doubt it was the most incredible theatrical experience of my life. It was a breath-taking spectacle with constant surprises. The sheer scale of the event was stunning, to the point where it was difficult to keep track of what was going on or know where to look. I was completely swallowed up in the moment and had to resist leaping out of my seat to join in. So, for Heatherwick to come up with a design that was not only a fitting climax to an amazing ceremony, but also a wonderful tribute to the 8,000 torch bearers, is pure genius. It’s also wonderful that he has been allowed to talk freely about his design, whereas the rest of us have been given gagging orders. I will definitely support the campaign to preserve the cauldron rather than allow it to be broken up and given back to the nations, but then that probably misses the point. For me it was brilliant that the ghost of B of the Bang has finally been put to rest. 



Readers' comments (2)

  • Woodarc

    Just brilliant!

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  • Sublime...here's why the "moment," the temporal, optimal and analogical is our new, disruptive paradigm for how nature designs herself: http://asynsis.wordpress.com

    Nigel Anthony Reading RIBA
    Design Director
    Ideas Realised
    Shanghai Hong Kong London

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