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July 12, 2007

Designer Thomas Heatherwick's Soho Star

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Img_0721Heatherwick-1 It must be great to be a genius.  To get up every morning and see things that no one else sees and then be able to design and construct them.

That's the lot of British designer Thomas Heatherwick.  Not a fashion designer mind you, but an industrial designer.  Kind of a cross between a sculptor, an architect and an engineer.

Except his works are not limited to just sculptures or buildings.

A few weeks ago I happened on a show on BBC World called "Imagine:  The Ingenious Thomas Heatherwick." I'd never heard of Heatherwick before but before I knew it, I was drawn into his fascinating world. What I found was an enthusiastic thirty-seven Img_0709_1year old, who looks sort of like a young Gene Wilder.  A man on the cutting edge of expanding what we see and experience by his incredible works.

They're not just beautiful.  They're not just imaginative. They're breathtaking.

Like a cube made of thin windows.  Or an unusual seaside cafe.  Or a bridge that rolls.

When Longchamp, the French handbag maker wanted a designer for their flagship Longchamp store at 128-32 Spring Street in New York City, they hired Heatherwick.

The centerpiece of the store is a 55 ton three story, steel staircase.  It's been Img_0711_1 finished to look like laminated wood and on the second level, the handbags are displayed on what look like shelves created by peeling strips of wood, gracefully falling from the ceiling.

As his website describes it:

"Constructed in 1¼" hot-rolled steel and taking six months to build, the stair landscape weighs 55 tonnes and is an installation of ribbon-like forms that divide and converge to form a topography of walkways, landings and steps."

Heatherwick had already designed a handbag for Longchamp called the Zip Bag. Img_0714_1

"Zip Bag is an apparently plain leather handbag, which when unzipped, doubles in size and reveals a spiral of colour. It went into production in 2003 and was launched at London's Design Museum, becoming a bestseller for Longchamp."

At the New York Longchamp store, the lighting is from an enormous skylight which allows you to appreciate your leisurely walk up the staircase.  In the showroom at the top you get to browse and Img_0720_1 possibly buy the fashionable leather goods on suchImg_0719_1 beautiful display.

So, if you're taking a shopping trip to Soho, or if you're just in the neighborhood, drop by the Longchamp store.  It's not just worth the trip.  It's genius.

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