Provocations: The Architecture and Design of Heatherwick Studio


Heatherwick Studio Rolling Bridge London

Kids, with proper guidance, can really enjoy the Hammer’s latest new show, Provocations: The Architecture and Design of Heatherwick Studio. More than enjoy, it may actually stimulate their creativity! The freshest of ideas are often best comprehended by children and seeing the ideas at work in the Heatherwick Studio design and architecture projects is stimulating and even wondrous. With unusual materials, space-age ideas, and practical solutions that come from years of successful projects being built and implemented, this show demonstrates that a good question is the proper jumping off point for design.

The connection between the spark of an idea and its fruition is on display in each corner of the jam-packed show, making Hammersmith fun for everyone in your crew. It all starts with the unusual chairs that are poised for fun in the courtyard. From above, they look like strange lopsided spools, but if you climb into them, they’re pretty darn fun.

Provocations: The Architecture and Design of Heatherwick Studio

Grown-up fun, for sure, but we are pretty sure your kids would find these terrific. They are called “Spun” chairs – and not only can you see how they are designed in the show itself, but you can purchase them (for $750) at the Hammer Store.Heatherwick/Hammer

Once you’ve played in the “Spun” chairs, head upstairs into the exhibit, where you’ll immediately be greeted by a ceiling-high roll of papers. Kids can crank the machine’s SQUEAKY handle and out pops a long menu that both explains what you’re looking at in the show and posits questions that inspired the architects and designers on display. This is already fun, not just because it is noisy and disruptive.

But because if you take the time to read, it actually sets up the design issues at stake: Can a drawbridge open without breaking? It turns out, yes. (see above!) But not until Mr. Heatherwick came along. Can a building express on the outside what goes on on the inside? Can a giant structure fit through a mail slot? Can you make a building using only two components? Well, take a stroll around and see!

Heatherwick / Hammer

Thomas Heatherwick, born in 1970, has received international acclaim in the design and architecture community resulting in numerous accolades for his innovative work. Named an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, RIBA, Heatherwick has been awarded the Prince Philip Designers Prize, was appointed a Royal Designer for Industry and received the RIBA’s Lubetkin Prize, the London Design Medal, and a CBE for his contribution to the design industry.

Heatherwick Studio, established in 1994, is recognized for its highly inventive approach to everyday design challenges, frequently combining novel engineering with new materials and innovative technology to create unusual, often sculptural, building forms. The project that first garnered Heatherwick international recognition was the Rolling Bridge which crosses London’s Grand Union Canal near Paddington Station. Asked to design a bridge to span the small channel through which boats pass, Heatherwick acknowledged that most drawbridges are unattractive when raised. His solution was to create an eight-part section of the bridge using hydraulic pistons that eliminated the need for visible cables and piers. The bridge’s unique motion, which rolls up into a circular snail-like form, continues to attract crowds and won the 2005 British Structural Steel Award.

Heatherwick Studios Garden Bridge, London

Bridge over the Thames. Proposed, not yet built.

Heatherwick Studios UKPavilion, Shanghai World Expo

The plan for the UK Pavilion from Shanghai’s World Expo and below, the building erected. Stunning!


What’s particularly fun about the show is that so many of the ideas have been built or are soon to be constructed. The success of the Heatherwick Studio is impressive, and universally accepted in London, where Heatherwick has even redesigned the London City busses.

Heatherwick Studios

The studio’s habit of using repurposed materials, and always considering a building or objects impact on the environment, makes his work all the more appealing to younger visitors. Mostly, the work is just fun – buildings look more like sculptural objects than anything and the radical view of every ideas and objects is refreshing.

The Hammer Museum //10899 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024 // (310) 443-7000

On View through May 24, 2015