The Olympics: design climax

When the Olympic cauldron erupted in flames at the London Games' opening ceremony last year, it marked not just the start of the competition but the climax of a conceptual design. Copper plates borne by every country's contingent were put together at the end of steel poles.

The plates created a burning cauldron to depict the coming together of 204 nations. "We were aware that no one remembers the design of the Olympic cauldron," said Thomas Heatherwick, who was commissioned to design it, while speaking at the India Design Forum on Friday. "People remember the way the cauldron was lit. We realised that how something was lit was how it was remembered. How could we bring those things together?"

Heatherwick was delivering the inaugural talk at the forum on the role of design. The award-winning English designer has his own design practice and was also involved in the revamp of London's iconic big red bus. The challenge here, he explained, was developing an aesthetic form whilst accounting for mandatory safety regulations. "Most of our work was trying to recalibrate safety regulations but doing it without putting it in your face," he said.

The buses became larger, with daylight streaming through the staircases, and smaller bulbs in place of jarring fluorescent lights. "We wanted to try and reestablish the human priority rather than the regulatory priority," he said.


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