31 July 2012

London Olympics 2012: Heatherwick's Olympic Cauldron



From the secrecy surrounding the Olympic Cauldron set to be lit at the end of last night's Opening Ceremony, it was bound to be a spectacle. Ground-breaking design isn't something that the Heatherwick Studios are unfamiliar with, with huge projects such as the East Beach Cafe and the Seed Cathedral dominating their portfolio, as well as projects as such as the new London 2012 busesThomas Heatherwick, the designer, had to keep all information under wraps, even whilst giving interviews at the Victoria and Albert Museum's special exhibition on his work, Heatherwick Studios: Designing the Extraordinary

Extraordinary was certainly the word to describe the Opening Ceremony - a celebration of British history and culture over the years and our achievements in industry, science, art and literature. Perfectly designed and beautifully choreographed, the ceremony was a true success for Danny Boyle and everyone taking part in it. After watching the torch speeding down the canal with Beckham, into the hands of Sir Steven Redgrave, onto the Olympic athletes and then today's young hopefuls, the moment that we'd all been waiting for came - the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron. After the first copper 'petals' were lit, the flames spread to the rest, and the giant flower-like structure slowly closed towards the ceiling, unifying each of the petals to one bud of flame.

Even before lighting, the cauldron's structure was a thing of beauty. Each copper petal was handmade by specialist craftsmen and made to represent each of the 204 nations represented by teams in the London 2012 Olympic Games. Each petal is inscribed with the name of the nation and 'XXX Olympiad London 2012' to celebrate the 30th modern games. Heatherwick's idea was to create a union of the petals to symbolise a peaceful union between the nations competing at these games. Instead of attempting to create something larger and more imposing than the Olympic Cauldrons of previous nations, his aim is for the cauldron to dismantle itself, with each nation taking home its own 'petal'. In this video you can watch him talk about his ideas for the project. Heatherwick had this to say for himself about his role as designer:

"Nothing has been harder than designing for the Olympics. It is the most public moment one can ever be involved in. I am humbled and excited, and above all very proud to have played a part in this significant moment for Great Britain."

As the speculation is now over and the secrecy can end, the Victoria and Albert Museum are now set to update the Heatherwick Studio exhibition with a 1:10 scale model of the cauldron, which will be on show with the rest of the exhibition from the 29th July. 

Head over to the exhibition to have a look for yourself, or if you can't make it, check back on this blog for the upcoming article on the exhibition itself.

Laura Blair