London freelance wins Prince’s approval

A freelance British-born designer whose creations have shaped everything from leather products, window displays, to public buildings and spaces has won the Prince Philip Designers Prize.

Given to the designer whose exemplary work has had the biggest effect on people’s quality of life and the public perception of design, the prestigious award has gone to Thomas Heatherwick.

At only 36, the London-based designer beat off strong competition from the likes of textiles designer, Lucienne Day, and Stirling prize-winner Sir Richard Rogers.

Dubbed ‘the new Leonardo’ for his ability to draw on many disciplines, Heatherwick is best-known as a ‘3D designer,’ in light of his diverse portfolio that makes him difficult to pigeon-hole.

His CV includes art, interior design, engineering, sculpture, architecture, exhibition design and product design projects – a long list of industry contributions judges were keen to recognise.

“One could put forward strong arguments why any of the finalists could be a worthy winner,” said George Cox, chairman of the Design Council, and member of the judging panel.

“However, Thomas Heatherwick’s wide range of designs have not only been impressive in their own right, but have had a profound influence on design thinking in the UK more generally.”

Oganisers of the award said his singular vision combined with a problem-solving mentality has produced audacious work including B of the Bang, a 56-metre high explosion of steel spikes at the City of Manchester Stadium.

His current list of eclectic projects includes a wavy silver mesh redesign for the entrance to Guy’s hospital in London, a clamshell-shaped beach café in Littlehampton and a Buddhist temple in Japan.

Londoners may also be familiar with his eye-catching Rolling Bridge – a timber and steel-based bridge that curls up until its two ends touch in order to let boats pass on the Grand Union Canal.

The victorious designer says he’s interested in ideas and the materials needed to achieve such visions.

“I was always fascinated by inventors and invention, and I think that's something that's very under-appreciated," Mr Heatherwick said, speaking to Icon magazine.

“I'm not thinking about the best way to clip your seatbelt in - I enjoy that, but I'm very interested in how you create better environments for people to be in and more interesting functional spaces and places."

David Kester, of the Design Council, commented on the three-decades-old prize: “The Prince Philip Designers Prize is unique for several reasons, not least its royal patron. It celebrates not just an individual design, but a body of work – a lasting contribution by a designer to business success and quality of life, and also to the standing of design itself.’


15th November 2006

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