Out of office: coffee and creative small talk with Thomas Heatherwick

Bodil Blain, Wallpaper* columnist and founder of Cru Kafé, shares coffee and creative small talk with leading figures from the worlds of art, architecture, design, and fashion. This week it’s British designer and architect Thomas Heatherwick, who currently has a number of architectural projects in development in Singapore

man reading magzine
British designer and architect Thomas Heatherwick, photographed in his London studio with his limited edition cover designed for Wallpaper’s 20th anniversary issue
(Image credit: Thomas Heatherwick)

Bodil Blain: Do you drink coffee?
Thomas Heatherwick: No, but I love the social rituals of sharing.

BB: Collaboration is a very strong element in your work. How do you choose the people you work with?
TH: The most important thing to me is the way someone brings out the best in others. I don’t produce sketches and hand them out to others to develop. Instead, we all talk and think and work together to grow the best solutions to the problems we are given and perceive around us. To me, it’s romantic; to someone looking from the outside, they might see it as a slow and painful process. But when you work well with someone else, it is amazing to find ideas and solutions exponentially growing in front of you.

BB: What projects are in the pipeline?
TH: We have lots going on in Singapore. As well as a new residential building currently under construction, we’re also designing a new terminal at Changi Airport with KPF. It’s a really exciting opportunity to try and break away from the soullessness and sterility that we’ve come to expect from typical airport environments.

building behind trees

Eden, Heatherwick Studio’s residential project in Singapore. 

(Image credit: Swire Properties)

BB: Do you miss the physical processes of making things?
TH: I started making things from an early age and, as a result, I feel it is something deep within me. You can’t take it away. It’s like skiing – if you learn to ski but never ski again, you will still know how to ski. You’ve got it in your bones! For the first 30 years of my life, I was making all the time. It was the only way for any of my ideas to happen. Now I’m lucky to have incredible collaborators who help me make and develop ideas.

BB: What would you like to be remembered for?
TH: What I’m trying to do with the studio is to help make places that bring out the best human connections between people. With the phenomenal success of globalised building procurement, so many cities are increasingly becoming more and more sterile and similar to each other. This is a serious issue – and it’s exciting when you feel you can touch people and make a real difference. 

As originally featured in the May 2019 issue of Wallpaper* (W*242)