British Design Season at the V&A, the exhibitions (part 1)

Heatherwick Studio: Designing the Extraordinary

Created with the typical easily distracted museum goer in mind, on first glance this exhibition resembles a cleverly lit, enticing store full of glossy wares. Showcased in one darkened room is the most successful output from the London based Heatherwick Studio, an architectural design company.

The studio, brainchild of Thomas Heatherwick, has designed innovative structures, vehicles, bridges, furniture, and even handbags. On display here, alongside some of the smaller finished products, are a selection of prototypes, sketches, notes on design briefs and video presentations. It’s a delight for the curious, as what you’re actually privy to in this room are these wondrous items being drawn into being.  In a world where people don’t make anymore, where craft has gone underground, visitors can gaze rapturously at fragments of an archaic realm.

The art of the Heatherwick creators materialises (light a lightbulb moment) as you walk around the space: they make you realise how ineffectively designed many ordinary things are. The notion of a retracting bridge or a perfectly conceptualised London bus had never existed in my mind before, and the simplicity and elegance of the designs was breathtaking. Craft resonates heavily, the studio have commissioned expert makers for bespoke components which they can’t produce themselves, as does playing with form and materiality. A favourite experiment of mine was the hairy building project which culminated in a fantastic structure resembling a cube shaped dandelion head (a must see).

This show is representative of what the V&A showcases best: intriguing, well designed, attractive, luminous things. It’s a crashing together of worlds, where high end art product, urban regeneration project and crafted prototype resembling a Michael Brennand-Wood piece can all sit side by side extremely comfortably.

Glossy and reverential, this exhibition is designed to make us fall in lust with good design. In my case, it most certainly did.

Hairy building project by Heatherwick Studio

Curated by Abraham Thomas. On display until 30th September 2012

http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/exhibitions/heatherwick-studio/

http://www.heatherwick.com/

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