Extrusions by Thomas Heatherwick
- more images


London Design Festival 09: Heatherwick studio have released more images of their Extrusions exhibition, on display at Haunch of Venison gallery in London.

The six extruded aluminium pieces of furniture were produced by the world's largest extrusion machine and required 300 hours of polishing each. See images of the pieces prior to polishing in our previous story.

Heatherwick conceived the project 18 years ago, his eventual ambition being to create a continuous 100 metre-long bench.

Heatherwick is currently working on more commercial applications for the process, including architectural components (such as façade elements) and mass-produced seating.

The exhibition continues until 7 November.

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

Further details from Haunch of Venison:


Thomas Heatherwick presents the world’s first single component of metal furniture, extruded by machine, in a new display in the Senate Room at Haunch of Venison London.

The exhibition, Extrusions, includes 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 extrusions are produced from one billet of aluminium. A billet is a large ‘plug’ of aluminium which is heated up and pushed through a die. The aluminium emerges in a raw unpolished finish which is then cut and sometimes shaped; each cut piece of bench then undergoes 300 hours of polishing. If pieces of the extrusion are not used they are melted down and made into further billets.

Heatherwick wants to continue to make new work with this die and is exploring a long held dream to create a 100-metre long bench. A billet weighs 830 kilos. In this new making process Heatherwick has commited to producing a body of work that will total no more than 200 metres in length.

The project, 18 years since conception, takes technology used in the aerospace industry to produce the world’s largest ever extruded piece of metal. Heatherwick’s extrusions are a celebration of a raw industrial process in which the machine creates each shape as a part of the extrusion cycle; the first part of the extrusion is often twisted and gnarled, which Heatherwick has left untouched, the second part is straight and clean, which Heatherwick has chosen to manipulate, the final part of the extrusion is the ‘tail’ as the billet runs out and thins into a final jaw-like cut.

The graceful aluminium pieces each have a unique, dramatic form that combines the back, seat and legs into one element. 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 s 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.

Thomas Heatherwick (b.1970) founded the Heatherwick Studio in London in 1994 after graduating from the RCA. Today, the practice operates from a combined studio and workshop in King’s Cross, London where a team of architects, designers and makers work on projects ranging from buildings and bridges to products and large scale works of art. The studio’s work includes La Maison Unique, the flagship store for luxury French brand, in New York Longchamp, multi-award winning East Beach Café, Littlehampton, and bridge, Paddington. Current projects include a monastic building in Sussex and the British Pavilion for the Shanghai Expo in 2010.

Exhibited works:
Billet 1 Extrusions 1-6, 2009
Dimensions variable

6 Burlington Gardens
London W1S 3ET
United Kingdom

Posted on Wednesday October 7th 2009 at 3:16 pm by Brad Turner. Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • There is just nothing I don’t love about these pieces, even while wondering about their potential to lacerate all comers. (Bitch to sit on on a hot day, too, I’d imagine.) But honestly, the dynamic quality of these objects — the feeling of motion they offer — is completely enchanting. Also? Mmmm, shiny.

  • By far the best thing I saw at the LDF.
    Heatherwick is easily my favorite designer currently in the UK. Can’t wait to see the 100m version of the Extrusions bench.

  • Rag

    Industrial process and material exploration giving a poetic result. The sort of project design students are given to explore, but taken to a refined conclusion with slight less limited resources! I think it’ a great project – in stark contrast to Max Lambs chinese “rocks” which seem to be created under similar parameters.

  • tanya telford – T

    i have to admit to wanting to sit on some of these when i visited the exhibition, just because some seem to be balancing and i just wanted to see how practical they are. My favourite was in the 2nd room, it looked the most user friendly and has a curved seat rim and reminded me of a happy smile,

  • trimtab21

    looks like it was found in a scrapyard – not very interesting

  • willem

    tom, leave applying it, it is beautiful so. you made my day!

  • Still waiting for a video of the extrusion process ;)

  • ste

    very very nice… love the dynamic and the force here… great visualisation of the process to me… imho the prototype (also on dezeen) was even better (without the glossy finish)

  • toodles

    show us a perfect extrusion fit for the construction industry and then you have something to show off. These look like mistakes. almost like the designer has gotten overexcited too early in the project.

  • Kong


  • tiffany

    This is so called art design with no art in it at all..
    Heatherwick and/or Haunch of Venison are trying to get a piece of the limited edition pie. They copy the language, they heard it should be bling bling polished (300 hours!) like the work of Ron Arad and others who have a track record in limited editions, but they forgot they are trying to make art. Art should be all about ideas. This is just craft (and waste of energy, natural sources and time). Empty.

    The idea, which is probably the original idea of Heatherwick anyway, to make an industrial version using this technique sounds way more logical and appealing to me. This is just commercial nonsense, the new Haunch of Venison style, not art, not design.
    Heatherwick, I love your work, but cut this crap!