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Thomas Heatherwick: the man who designed the Olympic cauldron

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Thomas Heatherwick: the man who designed the Olympic cauldron” was written by Alex Needham, for guardian.co.uk on Monday 30th July 2012 13.16 UTC

Since his emergence in the late 1990s, the work of designer Thomas Heatherwick has been hugely acclaimed. He was called "the Leonardo da Vinci of our times" by his mentor and fellow designer Terence Conran.

However, it is Heatherwick’s design for the Olympic cauldron that has made him a household name. When the cauldron, codenamed Betty, was lit by seven young athletes, and its 204 copper "petals" rose to create one huge flame, it caused jaws to drop around the world.

Heatherwick revealed that his cauldron was made in Yorkshire in what he described as "the most sophisticated shed in Harrogate … like the Bond gadget workshop".

Though the secrecy surrounding it was so complete that the young athletes lighting it didn’t even tell their parents, the design was cheekily hidden in plain sight on wallets for the tickets to the opening ceremony.

Here, Oliver Wainwright of Building Design compares Heatherwick’s Olympic torch to its predecessors.

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Heatherwick’s work is currently the subject of a retrospective at the V&A in London. He took the Guardian’s Steve Rose on a tour of it in May. Read Rowan Moore’s review of it here.

Nicholas Wroe interviewed Heatherwick about his career just before the show opened in May. We also made a gallery of his studio’s most famous designs.

In February, Heatherwick’s redesign of the London bus was revealed to acclaim, though only eight of them are currently on the roads.

His design for the UK pavilion at the Shanghai Expo in 2010 won the gold medal and ended up on the cover of the last album by cerebral dance act Junior Boys.

Before the Olympics, Heatherwick’s involvements with sport had been less happy. B of the Bang, his sculpture to commemorate the 2002 Commonwealth games, had to be dismantled after fears that its spikes – one of which fell off – could present a danger to passers-by.

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