In our latest issue, we interview superstar designer Heatherwick as he prepares to launch a host of landmark projects around the world
In our interview this month, Thomas Heatherwick argues that the country has lost its appetite for bold, boundary-pushing projects. The subtext is, of course, the cancellation of his own contribution to London’s public realm, the Garden Bridge. But I wonder if Heatherwick’s contention really holds water. Have we really lost our nerve? Or is it possible that people got fed up with baubles dreamt up by politicians that all too often failed.
That the London Eye was probably one of the better Millennium projects tells you all you need to know about New Labour’s era of follies. Strangely, this faith in grand projets found a vigorous champion in Boris Johnson during his tenure as London’s mayor. As Londoners found out, and sometimes to their cost, Johnson was not afraid of grand gestures. Indeed, they seemed to attract him like a moth to a flame. But he was less good at critical, long-term thinking, preferring style over substance: cable cars to nowhere, pointless sculptural steel structures.
Was the bridge merely the straw that broke the camel’s back? With Johnson despatched to sully the position of Foreign Secretary, and a new mayor who seems more engaged with the provision of mass housing, it could be that the bridge’s protracted death brings the curtain down on what critic Tom Dyckhoff recently dubbed the age of spectacle.
It would appear to be an opportune time for reassessment. What seems glaringly obvious is the need to invest in infrastructure, but that avenue is laden with pitfalls. While we continue to squabble over the wisdom of a third runway at Heathrow, Turkey will soon have completed phase one of the largest airport in the world. Even though we cannot compete with the rampant growth of high-speed rail in China – despite the role of British designers in its rolling stock – the humble HS2 seems finally to have cleared the signifiant legal challenges to its legitimacy. Yet there are enough naysayers still out there to derail the plans. If we are to meet the challenge of post-Brexit Britain, we need to think hard about where to direct our dwindling resources. Only pragmatists need apply.
On the cover: Portrait by Felicity McCabe of Thomas Heatherwick with a window model for Zeitz MOCAA
INSIDE THIS ISSUE
Scene The hammer falls on Robin Hood Gardens, the Garden Bridge and a classic car
Maison & Objet The message in Paris this year: small is beautiful
UK Construction Week Lessons from the sharp end of the building industry
Diary Our pick of exhibitions in November
Crimes against design Enough with the gifs!
Opinion: Reinier de Graaf Architects disclose their innate nobility
Paul Priestman Trainspotting with the high priest of transport design
The end of branding? Stephen Bayley lights one up in honour of Joe Camel
Behind the scenes Prototypes are stepping into the spotlight, says Riya Patel
Icon of the month Is the Vipp soap dispenser too clean for the real world?
Q&A: Paola Antonelli With her latest exhibition, the MoMA curator breaks new ground once more
Thomas Heatherwick The superstar designer at the eye of a storm
The return of history As a wave of architects looks to the past for inspiration, Tim Abrahams asks why
Brutalism What the hell is it? Edwin Heathcote (re)considers
The legacy of Boris Johnson The former London mayor‘s trail of failure and fiasco
Icon of the month The proposed mutilation of Wood Street police station
Review: Ettore Sottsass Met Breuer gets under the skin of the Memphis master
Review: Can Graphic Design Save Your Life? A difficult question gets a persuasive if partial answer
Rethink: Currency Koln Studio gives money a truly international flavour
Obsession: Bad books The irresistible allure of the mediocre monograph