When Thomas Heatherwick was selected to create the UK Pavilion for the 2010 Shanghai Expo, it would be fair to say that his work in large-scale architecture was at the time fairly limited (as was his experience in working abroad). Yet this did not stop the British creative dynamo from soon becoming one of the world’s most sought-after designers for projects of all scales. 

One of Heatherwick Studio’s strongest points is its flexibility and ability to work across disciplines, effortlessly bringing together art, design, architecture and engineering within a single approach, always led, of course, by its inventive founder. ‘Our ambition as a studio has always been to create projects that are unique to their own particular place,’ explains Heatherwick. ‘We try to think from the perspective of human experience rather than having a set of rules and saying ‘this is how we work’. Whether it’s a school, a bus or even a lift button, each project reflects the idiosyncrasy of its place and the people who will use it.’

Exterior of architecture animation building
Fosun Foundation Bund Finance Centre, 2019. Photography: Laurian Ghinitoiu 
Exterior of architecture animation building
Redevelopment of Tokyo’s Toranomon-Azabudai district. Photography: DBOX for Mori Building Co

China in particular – the country where this multi-award-winning designer first made his mark in the international stage – has been an exciting platform for Heatherwick and his London studio. Projects such as his 1000 Trees mixed used complex (expected to be completed in 2020) and the Bund Finance Centre (completed in 2017 with Foster + Partners), both in Shanghai, have been making headlines for their contextual and innovative designs. 

‘There is a hunger in China for projects that aren’t duplications of what exists elsewhere in the world,’ says Heatherwick. ‘China has had an incredible heritage of making public buildings and gardens that possess great soulfulness, and these are big inspirations and provocations for us.’§

Portrait of Thomas Heatherwick
Thomas Heatherwick. Photography: Earl Wan