Extrusions by Thomas Heatherwick


London Design Festival 09: an exhibition of six extruded aluminium furniture pieces by British designer Thomas Heatherwick has opened at Haunch of Venison in London.

Heatherwick's Extrusions series is produced using the world's largest extrusion machine, with each piece consisting of a single piece of aluminium polished for 300 hours to achieve a mirror finish (the images here show the pieces before polishing - pictures of the final installation to follow).

Extrusions is at Haunch of Venison, 6 Burlington Gardens, London W1s 3ET until 7 November.

See all our stories about London Design Festival 2009 in our special category.

More info from Haunch of Venison:


Until 8 NOVEMBER 2009

Thomas Heatherwick will present the world’s first single component of metal furniture, extruded by machine, at Haunch of Venison London this autumn.

The exhibition, Extrusions, will include six extruded, mirror polished, aluminium benches made without fixtures or fittings, which have been produced by the world’s largest extrusion machine. Heatherwick Studio commissioned a specially designed die through which aluminium was ‘squeezed’ into a chair profile, complete with legs, seat and back. The resulting exhibited extrusions are the early prototypes for a final outdoor installation – a 100 metre-long piece that tangles into an extraordinary form, which will be constructed and exhibited in 2010.

The project, 18 years in the making, takes technology used in the aerospace industry to produce the world’s largest ever extruded piece of metal. The project is also the first limited-edition work exhibited by Thomas Heatherwick.

The graceful aluminium pieces each have a unique, dramatic form that combines the back, seat and legs into one element. The sweeping parallel lines created through the extrusion process are contorted into random, gnarled endings: arbitrary swirling forms created through the inherent initiation and termination of the extrusion process.

Until now, extrusion technology has been limited to smaller dimension profiles, and since graduating from the RCA in 1994, Heatherwick has been searching for a machine capable of producing a chair with legs, seat and back from a single component.

Heatherwick’s early graduation bench illustrates this long held quest: a simple ‘L’ profile twisted into a bench form. Finally, last year an industrial factory was sourced with whom to experiment and realise this ambition. Following the success of these first extrusions, Heatherwick is now working on more commercial products using this process to create components for architectural construction, façade design and mass produced seating ranges suitable for contract.

Famed for his adventurous and original use of manufacturing processes and materials across the disciplines of architecture, art and design, Heatherwick is also renowned for his innovative, bold ideas at the forefront of manufacturing and design practice. Heatherwick’s projects take the design process to its broadest reaches, from entire buildings to handbags, bridges to furniture, and always involve a radical approach to manufacturing processes and use of materials.

Posted on Friday September 18th 2009 at 4:39 pm by Brad Turner. Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • ‘the world’s largest ever extruded piece of metal’

    ‘the world’s largest extrusion machine.’

    I found these comments maybe indicative of the superficiality of the desirability of much so called ‘limited edition’ design. Owning the largest diamond in the world is a silly idea – it’s not a competition. We are not in America.

    Saying that – I’m sure the installation will look amazing and bizarre.

  • RJC

    Wow, I love Thomas Heatherwick but… thats looking to me like quite a health hazard, hehe…

  • Pretty cool.
    Video please :)

  • Kong

    Looking at todays post this project seems to be the exact counterpart of the BLUE FENCE project. Big waste of material and work just to produce the biggest most shiny piece of extruded metal.

    I absolutely LOVE the project.

    After reading all the ambitious and socially aware ambitions for the blue fence, resulting in arguably very uninspired design, this was really refreshing.

  • FrankPaul031

    It seems a Ron Arad’s prototype….

  • bagelwithcreamcheeseplease


    um…you are confusing me. which project do you LOVE? you seem to insult them both. maybe it’s just your poor grammar.

  • Frank

    I hate how there is always a comment on here citing another artist that has done similar work.

    Yes, that’s exactly how design happens . . . people and things influence other people and the things they make . . . . it’s called art history. That pretty much sums up the table of contents.

    However, I always learn of a new designer, so keep it up!

  • jh

    finally a real post-crisis project. no eco-smalltalk, no sustainability chatting. i think everybody was getting sick lately of grass growing out of chairs and solar cells on coffee tables. i really like tis chunk of aluminium. it looks great, nice form and execution.

  • Furniture design meets car crash.

  • Kong


    I don t insult anyone and I like the Extrusions project because it is the biggest most shiny piece of extruded metal.

    Excuse my grammar i quit school after fifth grade.

  • matt

    very cool project.

    asdfghjkl said-
    “I found these comments maybe indicative of the superficiality of the desirability of much so called ‘limited edition’ design. Owning the largest diamond in the world is a silly idea – it’s not a competition. We are not in America. ”

    i def agree with the limited edition syndrome, but it seems like the project investigates the boundary there. a mass production machine making one-offs. its not exacly limited because they could pump out a shit load of these if they wanted, and it doesn’t come across as mass produced because of the very elegant painterly form. the fact that he captured this cognitive dissonance in one single form is totally cool… oh an yes, you are in america. wherever you are, america reached you.

    “Looking at todays post this project seems to be the exact counterpart of the BLUE FENCE project. Big waste of material and work just to produce the biggest most shiny piece of extruded metal.”

    technically there is no waste with extrusion, right? it only poops out what is the object, nothing more. it seems pretty minimal to me, in work and material. one process, and it embraces the imperfections of extrusion (leaving the ends all chunky), incorporating these desired imperfections as functional to the piece. its like the hand of a master painter, communicating culture, drama and form in a single efficient stroke of the hand. bravo!

  • Lee Corbusier

    Strange to post images of the wonky prototypes before they’ve been straightened, polished and installed in a Richard Rogers airport.

  • part-time geek

    Great stuff!

    I am so excited about seeing it in all its 300hours of polishing glory at LDF…Right up my street, such a great process with an interesting material.

    Can’t wait, S.B

  • ”’matt Says: you are in america. wherever you are, america reached you.”

    Nope. Dezeen is a British website, Heatherwick a British designer, Haunch of Venison a British gallery, and I my dear am in Copenhagen right now.
    I can turn the T.V. off any time.

  • hayden


  • steve

    Yet another example of Tom Heatherwick producing something out of a glorified back-yard shed using big claims such as ‘worlds largest’ to attempt to gain any form of design integrity as the work itself is mid level. History shows that true designers don’t have to be propped up by such attempts to gain credability. Maturity awaits I guess.

  • JJ

    Matt, I agree with your view of the extrusion process as “minimal”. Were this steel instead of aluminum, it would have take much less energy to produce. The amount of aluminum used could have been reduced, had a process other than extrusion been chosen.

    Additionally, half of this object can’t be used as a seat…it seems that part of the minimal nature of the extrusion process was to minimize the functionality of the end product.

    The fact that it takes 300 hours of polishing is a little excessive, too. That’s more than 12 days of continuous polishing, just to get a mirror finish. What a waste!

  • Dr dentist

    If you use toothpaste, America reached you.

  • part-time geek

    I went to the the exhibition today and it was Dazzling…the highly polished metal with the warning that you cant touch it, as the smallest contact would seriously damage it, gave it such a value.

    The extrusion process is so beautiful and all the variations he has done within the six benches on display where great. Every imperfection and bend made each piece so fascinating. But then on the supporting literature there was a sketch for a 100-metre long bench making me totally love it.

    It could never work as it is but in all its shinny glory it is saying that the process is applicable, and some of the bends and visual successes maybe producible, a real must see in LDF, S.B

  • part-time geek

    And JJ, your comment about 300 hours being a waste…you can’t touch it, you can’t sit on it, it is a 100% visual expression, how could reaching the best possible finish be a waste if its function is to be viewed and inspire? S.B

  • tiffany

    This is definitely the biggest bullsh*t I’ve ever seen on Dezeen, made with the biggest extrusion machine in the world, resulting in the biggest unmeasurable emptiness

  • What a neat project, very innovative and creative. I like seeing metals used as art, you don’t see that very often.