Architecture Style: 8 Must-See Works by Heatherwick Studio

Heatherwick Studio creates buildings, spaces, and infrastructure in cities all over the world. Their works span from China to the United Kingdom as they seek to work towards creating a positive social impact. 

Deeply soulful and visually striking, their art celebrates the complexities of the real world by embracing human-centered design rather than any fixed design dogma. 

With a penchant for biophilic design and sustainability, Heatherwick Studio has become a trailblazer in the architecture world. Creating and transforming buildings into a one-of-a-kind experience that brings people and nature together. 

In an interview with reSITE, Thomas Heatherwick shares his goal of driving on-the-ground user experience when it comes to designing buildings and spaces in the city. 

“It is trying to counter this move towards sterility that has been happening in cities, creeping and then racing towards that over the last more than half a century. So it feels like there’s a big job to do, to try and make places mean something to people.”

Discover eight award-winning architectural highlights by Heatherwick Studio. All are renowned and unique in their own right, while sharing the pragmatism, ingenuity, and innovation that has become synonymous with the name, Heatherwick. 

Maggie’s Leeds Center – Leeds, United Kingdom

Being a charity that provides free practical and emotional support to people affected by cancer, Maggie’s Center needed to be a welcoming place and respite from the clinical environment of the hospital. 

Thomas Heatherwick Studio architecture Maggie's Leeds Center UK

Photo Source: Hufton + Crow

For this, Heatherwick used natural, sustainable materials and built an extraordinary environment overflowing with plants. This is meant to inspire visitors as they go through their journey. Through this project, you will witness a human-centric approach to design that is often overlooked by the healthcare industry.

“Maggie’s Leeds has been a very special project for me and my team because we are convinced that there are kinder, more empathic ways to design places that can have powerful impacts on the way that we feel.”

Open spaces that welcome nature allow visitors to feel the restorative effects of being close to, or simply looking at, the greenery around. This visual connection with awe-inspiring views of Yorkshire and beyond also has an impact on people’s mental and physical well-being. Windows and gardens were put in place to incorporate plenty of green spaces to the design and layout of the center. 

Thomas Heatherwick Studio architecture Maggie's Leeds Center UK

Photo Source: Hufton + Crow

Inside, interiors are kept simple and minimalist, while the color scheme used is similar to the greenery that surrounds the place. To bring nature in, plants grow from the wicker-covered pots and decorate the walls up to the mezzanine. You’ll come across built-in shelves are built where visitors can add their own things to help them feel at home. 

The building’s frame is made from sustainably sourced spruce wood. Meanwhile, porous materials such as lime plaster help maintain the humidity of the naturally-ventilated building. Interestingly, the center also has three mushroom-shaped volumes set on the counseling rooms inside their pod-like centers.

Similarly, the rooftop garden is also one for the books. Inspired by the Yorkshire woodlands, the beautiful English garden features native species of plants and other evergreen plants to provide warmth during wintertime. 

Thomas Heatherwick Studio architecture Maggie's Leeds Center UK

Photo Source: Hufton + Crow

EDEN Singapore – Singapore

Inspired by the vision of a ‘City in a Garden’ imagined by former Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, the studio sought out to create homes within a garden. With its combination of natural materials, textures, and details in lieu of the area’s natural landscape, they give you a unique representation of living in the city. 

Just as a garden flourishes, EDEN, as the name suggests, is also designed to mature “like a sapling that has taken root beneath the streets, pilling the landscape of Singapore up into the sky.”

Thomas Heatherwick Studio architecture EDEN Singapore

Photo Source: Hufton + Crow

With this, whether you view it near or far, the building’s shell-like forms on three sides of each apartment look like giant planters. These lush balconies appear to overflow with greenery, evoking a sense of organic growth climbing the facade.

Additionally, they are alternated to create double-height super green outdoor spaces from over twenty species of flora. As these plants surround each apartment, it brings tranquility, serenity, and serves as natural shade from the Singaporean sun.

Thomas Heatherwick Studio architecture EDEN Singapore

Photo Source: Hufton + Crow

These features do not only create a biophilic building with year-round humidity, but it also allows residents to have more connection to the outside world. 

Rather than having a ‘dry’ balcony littered with a few pots, Heatherwick wanted to build these deep planters to create a tropical garden that moves with the wind and sunlight. Floor-to-ceiling windows also encourage cross-ventilation and allow for the breeze to come into the home. 

Going around the structure, you slowly realize an amazing display of biophilic features incorporated in its exteriors and interiors. This adds to the growing collection of sustainability-focused buildings all over Singapore, further celebrating the connection between natural and built environments.

Thomas Heatherwick Studio architecture EDEN Singapore

Photo Source: Hufton + Crow

Lantern House – New York, United States

You won’t miss this newly completed upscale residential building in Chelsea, Manhattan. In contrast to the new glass apartment blocks that have sprung up along the High Line, the Lantern House stands as a new type of residence, one that is reminiscent of the area’s historical buildings.

Thomas Heatherwick Studio architecture Lantern House New York US

Photo source: Heatherwick Studios

Inspired by the humble bay window – a detail often found in late Victorian and Edwardian era buildings, the three-dimensional windows give the building a unique and striking look. At the same time, free from corner views, residents enjoy great views out of light-filled rooms.

The Heatherwick team also brought together materials from Chelsea’s rich heritage such as plain glass panes, vertical metal mullions, and brick to create apartments that are sturdy. Moreover, these robust materials were used in an imaginative way to give the project a unique patina, character, and charm. 

Thomas Heatherwick Studio architecture Lantern House New York US

Photo source: Heatherwick Studio

Stocked with contemporary amenities like a roof deck, a library, a garden, and a health club, the Lantern House is able to embrace the modern necessities with the quirks of a historical residence. In here, you experience new and old architectural beauty – livability that reinvents a New York building. 

In an article by Architectural Digest, Heatherwick expresses his motivation in creating human-centered homes.

“For many decades there has been lovelessness in new building design; it looks great from a distance but up close there is no detail, no personality. Why aren’t we making things that connect with humanism? In historic buildings, people enjoy these perks.” 

Through this project, Heatherwick gives you a space that is enjoyable and grounded above all. 

Coal Drops Yard – London, United Kingdom

Previously filled with dilapidated structures, the yard has been reconstructed and transformed into a bustling and lively retail destination. 

The most striking feature found in the Coal Drops Yard is the two elongated Victorian warehouses that are connected by a dramatic curved roof, creating an illusion of two buildings lightly touching. This bold choice gave the site a unique architectural point and became the central focus of the project.

Thomas Heatherwick Studio architecture Coal Drops Yard London UK

Photo source: Coal Drop Ship Yard’s Official Website

Thomas Heatherwick Studio architecture Coal Drops Yard London UK

Photo Source: Flickr | Original version of Matt Brown

Heatherwick’s team also paid homage to the urban grit, texture, and history of the old Victorian buildings, creating a look and feel that’s similar to European provincial cities. This was achieved by retaining aged ironwork and using stained bricks, slate, and timber boards. Aside from this, the team also recreated the cobbled streets to preserve the site’s historic character. 

Plants and the landscaping were designed as a way to soften the industrial buildings and decorate the wide-open space.

In an interview with Dezeen, the Heatherwick team shares their hope of transforming the Coal Drops Yard into a new gathering place. 

“Our interest is making an amazing place. The shopping is the excuse for a place,” said Heatherwick. “Church used to be a place where people come together, or libraries were places people come together, community centers were places people came together.”

Thomas Heatherwick Studio architecture Coal Drops Yard London UK

Photo Source: Flickr | Original version of Ben Hughes

In the aim of highlighting the human dimension of this project, they realized that the challenge was to create “a heart that would hold you and glue everything together, and make you more likely to stay.” This is further conveyed when they shared their goal of making a visually interesting architectural piece for the large development. 

To be with your fellow humans is more precious than ever. You don’t have to go out. So somewhere has to mean something and not be a generic duplicate, which you may have got away with 20 or 30 years ago before the digital revolution.

True to their goals, the team was able to create a distinctive public space as well as a vibrant place to live, work, and relax.

1000 Trees – Shanghai, China

Designed to provide “a much-needed oasis from the hyper-dense, highly congested residential area”, Heatherwick Studio’s 1000 Trees development complex stands like a garden next to Shanghai’s art district, M50. It is a vibrant area that links historic buildings and the new retail spaces, offices, eateries, event venues, and galleries. 

Thomas Heatherwick Studio architecture 1000 Trees Shanghai China

Photo Source: Heatherwick Studios

When you view at a distance, the 1000 Trees stand tall like mountain peaks, using the tops of columns as large planters for thousands of lush greenery.

Rather than hiding the columns which provide structural support, the columns emerge at the top of the building holding a handful of locally sourced trees. All of which were selected for their hardiness and color variations to create a woodland park that ‘knits the new and the old’.

Thomas Heatherwick Studio architecture 1000 Trees Shanghai China

Photo Source: Heatherwick Studios

Arranged in an orthogonal grid across the site, the large-scale urban project gives an illusion of free-floating pillars that form multilayered terraces, sloping down towards a public park and riverside walkway. The concrete columns and planters, dubbed as ‘life pillars’, boast a rich, affordable, and beautiful materiality.

Integrating the creative talents in the district, an art wall that showcases murals is displayed on the mountain’s southern facade. The eye-catching and colorful walls are created in collaboration with local and international graffiti artists. 

Thomas Heatherwick Studio architecture 1000 Trees Shanghai China

Photo Source: Qingyan Zhu

The combination of greenery, concrete, and art in this modern oasis creates a unique ecological and human experience that brings everyone together. 

The 1000 Trees project is truly a marvel that brings together nature and urban amenity successfully. Through visionary design and execution, Heatherwick Studio was able to create an open, organic, and harmonious place that can enrich the urban experience.

Bombay Sapphire Distillery – Hampshire, United Kingdom

Located at an old Victorian paper factory in Hampshire, the mill houses a new distillery within renovated brick buildings. A pair of intertwining glasshouses are used for growing the tropical and Mediterranean plants necessary to create Bombay Sapphire gin. 

Thomas Heatherwick Studio architecture Bombay Sapphire Distillery Hampshire UK

Photo source: Flickr | Original version of Neil Howard

At first glance, the Bombay Sapphire Distillery’s curving glasshouses seem like a metallic mangrove plunging into the river. It looks as if the building sprouted aerial roots creating intricate glass greenhouses. Truly a sight to behold.

Inspired by Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palaces, these phenomenal glasshouses were created using strips of metal that swoop from existing buildings and down towards the waters of the River Test, one of England’s finest chalk streams. 

Thomas Heatherwick Studio architecture Bombay Sapphire Distillery Hampshire UK

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons | Original version as seen on Wikimedia Commons

Formerly a water-powered paper mill, the site contained more than forty derelict buildings, which have been restored by Heatherwick Studio. They removed 20 and restored the remaining 23 historic buildings to create a new central courtyard.

Widened to more than twice its original width, the revamped river creates a route that would draw visitors through the site.

Thomas Heatherwick Studio architecture Bombay Sapphire Distillery Hampshire UK

Photo Source: Flickr | Original version of Chris Wheal

The new botanical distillery has achieved a BREEAM ‘outstanding’ rating for sustainability. The first facility in the drinks manufacturing industry and the first refurbishment project to be awarded this rating.

Pacific Place – Hong Kong, Hong Kong

The Pacific Place is a luxury complex consisting of 5-star hotels, serviced apartments, office spaces, and gourmet dining destinations – making it an iconic development that set the standard of shopping. It was originally constructed in the 1980s and has since been one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in the world.  

Thomas Heatherwick Studio architecture Pacific Place Hong Kong

Photo Source: Heatherwick Studios

Commissioned to refurbish the Pacific Place, Heatherwick Studio was guided by a common philosophy. Major improvements focus on issues about circulation and wayfinding, sightlines between floors, a new palette of materials, textures, detailing, and reducing energy consumption. 

Thomas Heatherwick Studio architecture Pacific Place Hong Kong

Photo Source: Heatherwick Studios

The result was a total interior, exterior, landscaping, and architectural refinement – breathing new life to the impressive complex.

One of the greatest physical transformations was the reconfiguration of the rooftop deck to make it more accessible to pedestrians. Since redesigning the area, it has become an open and attractive public green space where you can freely gather. 

Thomas Heatherwick Studio architecture Pacific Place Hong Kong

Photo Source: Heatherwick Studios

Aside from this, the new design embraced the organic approach, choosing to use natural forms and materials to bring a sense of movement and fluidity to the space. Natural stone and textured wallpaper were used to add a sense of depth, and wood to create curved edges and a more natural flowing sensation within the complex.

Thomas Heatherwick Studio architecture Pacific Place Hong Kong

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons | Original version as seen on Wikimedia Commons

Building on this, the team at Heatherwick also incorporated biophilic aspects into the overall design to enhance the shopping experience. The new walkable flat skylights were installed to allow for more daylight to pass through, illuminating the interiors whilst allowing the roof to be converted into a public terrace. 

Blurring the indoor and outdoor areas, these features make the mall feel more open and spacious. They also installed a new music system that continuously plays tracks interwoven with natural sounds to create a relaxing atmosphere for you to enjoy.

Thomas Heatherwick Studio architecture Pacific Place Hong Kong

Photo Source: Flickr | Original version of Jay Sterling Austin

The Vessel – New York, United States 

Heatherwick studio wanted to create a structure that visitors could interact with. One you could use, touch, and relate to. Rather than creating an inert, static sculpture, the team envisioned a new landmark for social encounter – a space that encourages activity and participation.

Thomas Heatherwick Studio architecture The Vessel New York City, US

Photo Source: Flickr | Original version of Elvert Barnes

The Vessel is a sight to behold. A massive steel structure that stands out from the cluster of towers surrounding it. Unlike other buildings, this one opens up voids between the steps to create a three dimensional lattice as it expands upwards. It also has a continuous geometric pattern, with 154 interconnecting flights of stairs, all of which are self-supporting due to a steel spine between each pair of staircases.

Industrial in its approach, the raw welded steel of this structure is exposed while the underside of the staircases dipped in copper-toned metal. 

Thomas Heatherwick Studio architecture The Vessel New York City, US

Photo Source: Heatherwick Studios

From the building’s joints to the handrails, every element of the Vessel is uniquely designed and wonderfully bespoke. The 75 huge steel components were produced in Venice by specialist fabricator Cimolai, before being brought from Italy in six shipments, a process that took about three years.

Drawing inspiration from the Ancient Stepwells of India that evoked a powerful effect with their repeating steps, the team designed the towering building to have a total of 154 flights and almost 2,500 steps. It rises up to 46 meters tall with a view of the Hudson Yards and Manhattan from 80 platforms arranged around its perimeter.

To top it all off, the polished copper-colored undersides contrasting with the raw painted steel surfaces, creates a striking display of the complex architectural framework. 

Thomas Heatherwick Studio architecture The Vessel New York City, US

Photo source: Flickr | Original version of Mobilus In Mobili

The structure is also unique in its Escher-like framework that seems to lead to nowhere in particular. Giving an impression of openness where one could walk up and down to simply look and contemplate. 

Thus, creating a marvelous structure and a new meaningful public legacy for New York. To this day, the Vessel is one of the largest real estate projects in American history and an iconic centerpiece of New York’s Hudson Yard. 

Despite it’s awe-inspiring size and stunning design, the Vessel is designed on a human scale. It is a structure animated by people and the reflections of the square beneath it.

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