A custom concrete curtain wall complements a Singapore university building's unique form.The new Learning Hub at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore looks nothing like a typical campus building. School administrators conceived of the facility as the embodiment of a pedagogical sea change, and commissioned London-based Heatherwick Studio to design an iconic structure emphasizing small-group learning and cross-disciplinary interaction. Eschewing perpendicular classrooms and isolated corridors, the architects developed a unique plan in which rounded meeting rooms are arrayed around a central atrium. The Learning Hub's textured concrete facade, punctuated by zig-zags of glazing and pockets of greenery, translates the interior program to the building's exterior, and announces the arrival at NTU of a new way of teaching and learning. The Learning Hub's plan, said project leader Ole Smith, "is basically the whole story of the design." The first challenge was to accommodate a radical departure in the university's mode of instruction. In lieu of traditional master classes, students meet in groups of six with a professor as facilitator. NTU asked Heatherwick Studio to eliminate corners where possible; once the architects observed that the classes would meet at round tables, the next step was to consider rounding the classrooms themselves. Knowing that the windows in the classrooms would need to be small in order to reduce thermal gain, they looked for another way for students to connect with one another and decided upon a central courtyard. "That was part of the brief as well, to enable the students to mix," said Smith. "It's the only building on the campus of 33,000 where they all come together. Art students might have class next to math or engineering students; the hope is that they'll meet up and inspire each other, or develop a business plan together." Singapore's stringent environmental standards necessitated the use of concrete on the building's facade as well as its structure. "That scared us a little," recalled Smith. "In northern Europe we see a lot of Brutalist buildings, and that's not the direction we wanted to go in. We started looking at how we could use the material in a different way." With local concrete contractor LWC, the architects played with pigment, using different colors to signal structure and ornament. In terms of form, they sought a balance between uniqueness and standardization. Heatherwick Studio's 3D modeling specialists came up with a set of 10 curvatures that, distributed across a total of 1,050 facade panels, could be recombined to deliver a unique shape to each classroom—thus streamlining fabrication without introducing obvious repetition. To further camouflage the facade's standardized elements, and to avoid swerving into Brutalist territory, the architects introduced a texture of horizontal bands, spaced, per local code requirements, to be pigeon-proof. In the end, explained Smith, "the panels are all unique because of the system we developed to treat the facade pattern." The system involved applying stripes of glue-like retardant onto the formwork, pouring the concrete, allowing it to set 24 hours, then hosing it down to remove the still-wet material. "We didn't add anything to the facade; we subtracted it," said Smith. To minimize solar gain, Heatherwick Studio introduced narrow bands of glazing around the perimeter of each classroom. Having rejected curved glass as too costly, but wishing to avoid a faceted appearance, the architects arranged the flat panes in a zig-zag pattern. A slight floor-by-floor cantilever further cuts the heat, turning each story into a natural sunshade for those below it. Meanwhile, induction units positioned under the windows passively ventilate the classrooms. Rounded bronze-mesh balconies situated between each classroom wing draw air into and through the courtyard, producing a cross breeze no matter the direction of the wind. The final pin in the Learning Hub's sustainability cap (the building achieved the highest sustainability rating awarded by the government of Singapore) is the hydroponic greenery distributed across the balconies and rooftop garden. For Smith, the ongoing collaboration with concrete fabricator LWC was a crucial element of the Learning Hub's success. The contractor's ingenuity and willingness to work with the architects provided the level of distinction required by the NTU brief. "We spent a lot of time with the consultants working on colors and texture," said Smith. "The concrete has a handmade feel; we're very happy with that. In Europe you pick your facade from a catalogue, but in this situation we were able to design it from scratch."
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Just two days ago, AN brought you word that Copenhagen- and New York–based Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and London-based Heatherwick Studio were teaming up to design the new headquarters for Google in Mountain View, California. At the time, it was only being reported that the complex would comprise "a series of canopylike buildings.” Well, now we know what those canopylike buildings will look like and a whole lot more. The Silicon Valley Business Journal first reported on the project design, publishing dramatic renderings and details on how the architects came up with their groundbreaking scheme. "Google—along with a team of prominent architects—has spent more than a year rethinking every assumption about office buildings, tech campuses, and how they relate to their neighborhoods," reported the newspaper. "The result? Four futuristic structures where basic building elements — floors, ceilings and walls — attach or detach from permanent steel frames, forming whole new workspaces of different sizes. With help from small cranes and robots ("crabots"), interiors will transform in hours, rather than months." Hear that? Crabots! A spokesperson at BIG declined to comment further on the design. http://youtu.be/z3v4rIG8kQA These four structures will be draped in glass canopies and are scaled as entire city blocks. The overall campus would also reportedly "see wide swaths of land returned to nature, criss-crossed by walking trails and dotted by plazas, community gardens and oak groves." There would even be a walking path that cuts through a building "letting outsiders inside the Google hive." Joining BIG and Heatherwick on this massive project is the San Francisco–based CMG Landscape Architecture, which is working with Gehry on the Facebook campus. "Today we’re submitting a plan to redevelop four sites—places where we already have offices but hope to significantly increase our square footage—to the Mountain View City Council," David Radcliffe, Google's Real Estate VP writes. "It’s the first time we'll design and build offices from scratch and we hope these plans by Bjarke Ingels at BIG and Thomas Heatherwick at Heatherwick Studio will lead to a better way of working." Google further unveiled the project on its blog this morning, revealing the video above. "The idea is simple. Instead of constructing immoveable concrete buildings, we’ll create lightweight block-like structures which can be moved around easily as we invest in new product areas," Radcliffe said on the blog. The project totals 3.4 million square feet and includes four sites. Google reportedly wants to have the first of these sites, known as "The Landing," completed by 2020. But before construction can start, the city must approve Google's hugely ambitious plans.
Presumably not wanting to be outdone by Facebook and its Frank Gehry–designed digs or Apple and its Norman Foster–designed doughnut, Google has tapped two architectural big hitters for its new Mountain View, California headquarters. According to the New York Times, the company is expected to announce that the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and Heatherwick Studio are behind the yet-to-be-seen design, which given the two firms' portfolios, should be pretty dramatic. But all we know at this point is that the headquarters will be comprised of "a series of canopylike buildings." No matter what the building—or buildings—looks like, it will likely get some pushback from the community which feels that Google is overextending its footprint in Mountain View. "When Google moved here in 1999," wrote the Times, "it had a dozen employees and a search engine known only to computer aficionados. Now, its 20,000 local employees make it the biggest employer in a city that is bursting at the seams." Two of the most pressing issues that Google and the city will have to hash out moving forward are housing and traffic.
Q+A> Thomas Heatherwick talks about architecture, being an outsider, and his new exhibition at the Hammer Museum
The new exhibition Provocations: The Architecture and Design of Heatherwick Studio opened Friday at Los Angeles' Hammer Museum. The show, curated by Brooke Hodge, explores the firm's creative process and the remarkable scope of its work, with a particular focus on public scale projects. AN West Editor Sam Lubell talked with Thomas Heatherwick about the exhibition, his outsider approach, and where he's heading now. Sam Lubell: There doesn't seem to be a category for your work. You're a designer and you're an inventor. Thomas Heatherwick: It surprised me, when I was growing up the word inventor was always connected to the word mad—mad inventor. And you couldn't study it. But the paintings we valued had an inventive move, the pieces of writing would have an inventive something in them. Sculpture, science, transportation. We're all curious about what the future will be, and the future is made from ideas. But you couldn't study that. The world of developing, evolving ideas was chopped up into these different things with titles. So I was quite surprised. I've always been motivated by where can you make a difference. In a way I'm a problem solver, that's what interests me. The thing is trying to find which problem, and your analysis of what a problem is and where it is. It's all problem solving. It's trying to work out the order to solve those in. You've called your firm "experts in not being experts." To me that's so fascinating. To not be stuck in the expected ideas of what you should be doing. It seems very challenging to maintain that. Especially when you get to be more of an expert in something. Luckily the world is big. Life is relatively short. Projects take so long to actually do that I don't feel worried about it. My studio's been going for twenty years, but you're seeing photographs of our first completed building project in Singapore. (The UK Pavilion is technically a big bungalow.) I think within everything, why waste your time copying yourself or others? There's an attempt to try to hunt down what the solution is. To me with each project, I feel like not that we're generating a solution, but that we're trying to find it. Which means it helps it to be broader than just myself. It really is we're together trying to solve a crime somehow. Often we'll do development work knowing it's not right. But you're needing to eliminate from your enquiries a strand of your ideas to see if they'll teach you something that might work. You've moved from smaller work to buildings and bridges. What's the next frontier? I feel I've barely scraped any frontier. This is going to sound very dull, but my grandmother at the end of her life was in a nursing home. We found the best nursing home we could for her, but it was a really poor environment. But the most alarming part of it was for the staff. We are all going to be that person one day who's there. I want to know society thanks them. I know I'll be old and rotting. It felt to me there's something really wrong in that. You feel you could make a real difference with relatively little resource. Another example is the prison system. Do you really want to hurt someone more and then they come out and sit next to you on the bus? Most people in British prisons have not had the benefits in their life that you and I have had. The notion of a prison as a learning place and not a hurting people more place is exciting. If there's a way to politically enable that to happen when the public wants to condemn. If you hurt them more it's not going to help you. You seem to have this spirit that anything's possible. People are resigned to these areas that you've mentioned. For you it's like no, it doesn't have to be that way. People are cynical, and you guys have this idealism that is really refreshing. I think I've been lucky that for some of the early projects, there were people who supported them and allowed them to happen. That gives you more encouragement to keep going and to believe the best in people. I've trained around some really hard-bitten architectural characters, and you understand why. Because it's very hard to make a building at all, let alone one with any value or quality. And it's really easy to get downtrodden and bitter. I suppose I've very consciously put that in my brain and tried to protect that, and not fall into that trap. Because it's like an itch that's easy to scratch. And as soon as you start scratching, if you don't believe the best of the people around you, then they will conform to being the worst. I see there's a lot of that idea of protecting and not allowing in the forces of cynicism. We're in an interesting time. Particularly in America there's a culture of entrepreneurial optimism and societal improvement in entrepreneurship. So I don't feel alone, I feel particularly inspired by the extraordinary examples of people pursuing an idea and believing something can happen, and there's no reason something shouldn't. Not blaming the world for ideas not happening. Since you're willing to rethink these processes, sometimes people get rubbed the wrong way. There's been some backlash about your attempt to move up in scale. People saying "he's not an architect." How do you respond to that? The studio has 120 architects, and it's a brilliant training. I'm very lucky to work with people who've trained in that way. There's always some friction in change. It would be very weird if there wasn't. The public area between all the private zones is the bit we all share. As we all know, some people are good at adapting to change and others are very fearful of it. You can't predict and control how people feel about things. But I'm very lucky to have this team, and I'm very lucky to have the support that I do. Any innovation I see happening is when people step outside their bubbles. And it seems like that's what you're willing to do. I've never been in a bubble. Maybe I've deliberately protected that. But I've also tried to bring in people who have that expertise to work with us. These designs are very provocative and complex, but they're very human. They're always grounded and approachable and understandable somehow. It's a very real interest. I'm very influenced by the Jane Jacobs book The Death and Life of Great American Cities. It almost made me fall in love with public-ness. With the bit we share together, and the subtle chemistry existing in the social interactions in public space. And William White, who analyzed public space so well in the 70s. Lessons that haven't been learned since. It's just re-tuning in to thinking that's already there, but trying to synthesize and bring that to bear on projects now. Do you think you have more interest now in the public realm than in doing projects for individuals? I've always had that. In a sense you can make more difference. We already know peoples' private homes can be sensational and gorgeous and impressive and that things in art galleries can be stunning and wonderful and in fact you're positively disappointed if they're not. Whereas we have very low expectations of public space. People really don't expect much at all. Having scaled up, are there any major lessons you've learned from working with architects? I built my first building when I was 21 at university, so this isn't new territory. But it takes years to be trusted by cities and property developers and cultural institutions. To be an architect is an impossibly big job. A really good architect is a collaborator, and harnesses the brainpower and brilliance of others. And I feel a strong sense that my role is to try to harness the brilliance of others, and to synthesize and bring that together into projects that have some meaning. I don't see myself so much as an author, I see myself as a "bringer-togetherer" of things. It's deep in me, the passion for both the space and the materiality. And I'm lucky to work with such good people.
The UK-based firm Knight Architects has created a pedestrian bridge in London that opens and closes like a Japanese folding fan. The Merchant Square Footbridge is comprised of five steel beams that sequentially open with the help of hydraulic jacks. The structure spans about 65 feet across the Grand Union Canal in the new mixed-use Merchant Square development in Paddington. Knight Architects, alongside structural engineering firm AKT II won a design competition for the bridge in 2012. In a statement, Knight explained that the individual beams together form the bridge's deck and that counterweights and a hydraulic system reduce the structure's energy use. Dezeen reported that the bridge opens up every Friday to accommodate passing ships. “A fixed structure wasn't viable at that site as the constraints wouldn’t allow for the ramps necessary to get above the shipping envelope,” project architect Bartlomiej Halaczek told Dezeen. “A moving structure however would have to be maintained, and as these are usually quite significant costs, we had to keep them low by not overcomplicating the structure and picking a relatively simple mechanical system.” Not far from Knight's fan-like bridge, is another impressive, canal-crossing structure: Heatherwick Studio's Rolling Bridge, which can curl up into a “circular sculpture.”
Bombay Sapphire is in the process of converting a historic paper mill into a facility for producing their famous gin. Overseeing this transformation is the ever-busy Heatherwick Studio, which has been brought on to renovate the 40 derelict buildings found on the site. Their most drastic intervention to the extant campus comes in the form of a soon-to-opened visitor's center that was recently awarded a BREEAM 'outstanding' rating for sustainability, an international system for ranking green buildings. The building is composed of the original structure and two new large glass outgrowths that are seemingly blown out of its interior and into a surrounding body of water. These alien forms are, in fact, drawn from the shapes of the curvaceous copper stills traditionally employed in gin distillation. One temperate, the other humid, the two greenhouses are populated by the various botanicals incorporated into gin production. The glass additions sit partially in the shallows of the River Test that snakes through the entirety of the mill. Integrated photovoltaic cells, a biomass boiler for recycling organic matter, and energy-producing water turbines all contribute to the center's elevated BREEAM status. The watery foundations of the greenhouses are indicative of Heatherwick's attempts to emphasize the role of the river in their refurbishment of the site. The firm hopes to increase the Test's visibility while using it as an organizational device for traversing the numerous buildings in the facility.
A monolithic cluster of concrete silos on the Cape Town waterfront is the subject of a dramatic surgical intervention. The industrial relic will be transformed by Thomas Heatherwick into an art museum planned for the city's V&A Waterfront. The project entails the conversion of the grain silo complex into a new space to house and display the Jochen Zeitz Collection, an assortment of art that will act as the foundation for Zeitz MOCAA a non-profit institution dedicated to contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora. Rather than attempt to grapple with the unwieldy nature of the extant structure, Heatherwick elected to embrace its"tubiness." The cluster of cylindrical spaces will remain largely intact while a towering glass-roofed museum atrium is carved out from its interior, resulting in a curvaceous irregular honeycomb form denoting an egg-shaped void. Surrounding bins will be filled by smaller galleries or re-purposed as elevator shafts and spiral stairways. Paint will be stripped from the exterior of the silos to expose the structure's original concrete. Other alterations to the building are relatively minor. A restaurant and sculpture garden will be placed atop the roof. Curved glazed panels will be inserted into some of the more rectilinear portions of the exterior. These subtly bulging additions are meant cast Zeitz MOCAA as a "glowing lantern or beacon for the harbor" by night. Heatherwick Studio will collaborate with South African firms Van Der Merwe Miszewski, Rick Brown Associates, and Jacobs Parker Architects to realize the museum. The decision to preserve much of the silo complex may go a ways towards tempering local concerns regarding the direction and scale of the development of the waterfront. The plans for the museum were revealed at Design Indaba, an annual design expo held in Cape Town. Heatherwick will also be contributing a large fountain to Manhattan's in-the-works Hudson Yards development.
The designers at New York-based Atopia Innovation, must have been stewing over the past year. Although the gag order imposed on all participating architects and designers by London’s Olympic Organizing Committee (a.k.a. LOCOG) was lifted in January, Atopia only stepped forward in late June to say that the Olympic Cauldron designed by Thomas Heatherwick and used in the 2012 opening ceremonies seems to have been directly inspired by studies Atopia delivered to LOCOG between 2006 and 2008. Check out the sketchbook that seems to prove the point at atopiainnovation.com. (Photo: Courtesy Thomas Heatherwick)
Heatherwick Studio has envisioned a refreshing way for Londoners to safely commute from the North to the South side of the city that doesn’t involve the hassle of waiting for a bus, squeezing onto the overcrowded "Tube," or sitting in mind-numbing traffic. The firm, which has been working closely with actress and campaigner Joanna Lumley to develop the design, proposed a pedestrian garden bridge that will extend across the River Thames, providing Londoners with a safe, green river crossing. The idea first blossomed in response to the Transport for London’s call for submissions for the design of a pedestrian link that would span the river. They selected Heatherwick Studio’s vibrant design, which features a lush garden walkway supported by two fluted piers that will be filled with flourishing wild flowers and thrive with abundant plant life. According to Design Boom, Lumley enthusiastically commented on the new plans for the walkway by saying, “This garden will be sensational in every way: a place with no noise or traffic where the only sounds will be birdsong and bees buzzing and the wind in the trees, and below the steady rush of water. It will be the slowest way to cross the river, as people will dawdle and lean on parapets and stare at the great cityscapes all around; but it will also be a safe and swift way for the weary commuter to make his way back over the Thames.” This lively new pedestrian river crossing, which is estimated to cost about $95 million, is to be built between the already-existing Blackfriars and Waterloo bridges, and would be the first bridge to be built over the River Thames since the Millenium Bridge in 2000. With green space covering almost 40 percent of the city, London is one of the greenest cities in the world. This new garden walkway will provide London with yet another, always welcome, peaceful green public space that is sure to attract visitors and locals looking to breathe in some fresh air and appreciate the pleasant riverside views.
British architect Thomas Heatherwick was recently featured on a Ted Talk where he presented five projects including his Seed Cathedral from Shanghai's Expo 2010. The pavilion incorporated thousands of seed-encapsulating plastic rods that transmit light into and out of the building. Taken as a whole, the strands resemble one giant occupiable seed puff.
The City of London unveiled a new version of its iconic red doubledecker bus today, replacing the Routemasters everyone knows and loves. Which was a little surprising, as we thought Transit London had already selected the ever-so-British team of Norman Foster and Aston Martin 17 months ago. But apparently that was just an ideas competition while this, as the video above shows, is the real deal. Set to hit the road by 2012—just in time for the Olympics, no less—the new buses are the work of Thomas Heatherwick and Wrightbus. In addition to being super sleek, the new buses are super sustainable hybrids. Get on board after the jump.