Between the V&A exhibition, and the global acclaim for the Olympic Cauldron, Heatherwick Studio has had a very busy and successful summer. I was very impressed by many of the projects that were displayed at the V&A retrospective when I visited back in June, but by far the most exciting and energetic pieces were those where he was able to fully explore his preoccupation with the actions of ‘making’. The images below are from Heatherwick Studio’s website, and describe the intensive fabrication processes involved in the creation of the ‘extrusion’ bench series.
Firstly a ‘dye’ is formed giving the 2-D profile of the bench in the form of an opening in a steel cylinder. Under intense pressure, steel is driven through the aperture of the dye, squeezing and taking on the profile of the opening, like toothpaste or play-dough.
The final piece is a celebration of the mechanisms that formed the bench, and not necessarily the bench itself. As nobody knew how the finished chair would actually look, or if it would even function as a chair at all, you could argue that it was not the chair that was designed, but the ‘making’ process. It reminded me of the art of Richard Long, whereby the process of walking a line in a field was a performance, and the exhibited photography of the eroded pathways in the grass was merely a documentary fragment that lingered behind afterwards, as a description of the action that had been undertaken. Just like Heatherwick’s bench.
It’s interesting to think about how this process driven ‘making’ might be applied to architecture and spaces, and as you might imagine Heatherwick Studio is exploring this idea in the Aberystwyth Meeting House project. A centrally mounted rotating arm is designed to carve away the face of a circular poured concrete wall, to create a textured, tooled external surface to the round elevation. Whether or not it will work as intended, or if the final elevation will be in anyway ‘beautiful’ is again slightly irrelevant, the architecture that remains (whatever that might end up as) is just a description of the making that occurred there, of the intensive energy and efforts that crafted the spaces for inhabitation.