His design for Spun—a chair shaped like a spinning top that tilts and turns with the sitter’s movement—is emblematic of the fanciful yet functional designs in London-based architect and designer Thomas Heatherwick’s portfolio: the Olympic Cauldron at the 2012 London games, a double decker bus, also for London, and Hong Kong’s Sheung Wan Hotel.
When asked to design a structure for the UK Pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai Expo, Heatherwick created the Seed Cathedral—sixty thousand fiber-optic “hairs” protruding from a circular steel and timber composite structure. While some consider the structure—which looks like a giant, glowing hedgehog—simply another example of Heatherwick’s whimsical approach to design, the artist is quick to point out that the piece is actually quite serious.
“Is my studio’s work playful or is everyone else’s work too serious?” says Heatherwick in an interview with Architectural Digest. “And actually, Seed Cathedral was serious. With 60,000 varieties of seeds, it was the most biodiverse thing in Shanghai, or the whole region.”
Considering Heatherwick’s belief that good design strikes a balance between gravity and levity, it’s little wonder that Spun challenges the traditional notion of a chair and turns sitting into an experience.