After a two-year post-graduate course at The Royal College of Art, the young architect/designer named Heatherwick didn't think twice about his career path.
Directly after graduating in 1994, he founded his studio and burst almost directly onto the public consciousness with his design for the windows of Harvey Nichols.
Just over ten years later, his UK pavilion for the Shanghai Expo attracted the eyes of the world. Consisting of a box 15m wide and 10m high, punctuated by 60,000 clear acrylic rods, it had an extraordinary hairy appearance. Embedded at the end of each rod were seeds, a quarter of a million in all, sourced from Kew Gardens Seed Bank. Visitors outside marvelled at its bizarre indeterminate outline, while those inside were able to inspect the seeds held in transparent bases.
Like all Thomas Heatherwick designs, "Seed Cathedral" began as an in-house trial using various materials and construction methods and he has worked this way from the start. And he has always operated right at the edge of what is possible with any given amount of time, space and resources.
Later this year, an exhibition dedicated to the work of his studio is being held at the V&A. An exhibition that the Heatherwick studio has itself been responsible. Around 70 projects will be represented including his Harvey Nichols window, a 50mm drop of mercury solidified in water and a full-size back section of a London bus.
Heatherwick says, "I want it to feel like a trawl through the studio, as if you'd been given the keys and left to your own devices to wander around."
Heatherwick Studio: Designing the Extraordinary
31 May - 30 September 2012
Sponsored by Ernst & Young
John Fountain is a copywriter
Visit John Fountain's website