Thomas Heatherwick rejects claims that Olympic cauldron is a copy as "spurious nonsens"

Thomas Heatherwick rejects claims that Olympic cauldron is a copy as "spurious nonsense"

News: Thomas Heatherwick has denied any knowledge of a design presented to the London Olympic committee in 2007 by an American firm, which bears a strong resemblance to his cauldron used at the climax of last summer's Olympic opening ceremony.

Images of a proposal for a pavilion shown to LOCOG in 2007 by New York design studio Atopia were published by The Guardian newspaper this morning and show a cluster of petals atop long slender poles that looks strikingly like the design by Heatherwick Studio, which consisted of 204 copper petals that came together to create a single flame.

Heatherwick, who was awarded a CBE on the Queen's 2013 Birthday Honours list last week for services to the design industry, says the idea that his studio's design was influenced by Atopia's project or by LOCOG is false. "This claim is spurious nonsense. The ludicrous accusation that LOCOG briefed us to work with, develop or implement a pre-existing idea and that we acted in accordance with this briefing is completely and entirely untrue."

Thomas Heatherwick rejects claims that Olympic cauldron is a copy as "spurious nonsense"
The two designs featured on the front page of the Guardian today

The designer added: "Before this week, I – and the entire team I was working with – knew absolutely nothing about this proposal, or the ideas it is claimed it contained. None of us saw or were shown the illustrations published in The Guardian on 19 June 2013 until two days ago."

"Danny [Boyle, artistic director of the opening ceremony] and I evolved the idea for the cauldron over many months, in iterative rounds of discussions and I am appalled at the suggestion that either of us would let ourselves be influenced by any previous work. We were most definitely not steered by LOCOG towards this or any other idea. Any suggestion to the contrary is an affront to our creative integrity."

Danny Boyle has also dismissed the claims, stating: "As Artistic Director of the London 2012 Olympic Ceremony, I asked Thomas Heatherwick to take on the design of the Olympic Cauldron because of the integrity and originality of his ideas."

"I also absolutely and categorically reject any suggestion, whatever its motive, that Thomas or I were influenced by anything other than our obligation to create a ceremonial work of art that celebrated British originality, creativity and engineering," Boyle added. "This is total nonsense and must not be allowed to spoil our appreciation of Thomas's magnificent work."

Thomas Heatherwick rejects claims that Olympic cauldron is a copy as "spurious nonsense"
Sketches showing Atopia's proposal

Speaking to Oliver Wainwright in The Guardian, Jane Harrison, the co-director at New York design studio Atopia said that Heatherwick's cauldron "looked identical to something we had proposed to the London Olympic committee back in 2007, after which we hadn't heard anything."

Harrison added that Atopia's proposal also featured a similar narrative to the construction of the cauldron at the opening ceremony, which was assembled from petals brought to the stadium by each of the competing nations.

"We devised a structure of petals on tall stems, which would travel from all of the participating countries, then be brought into the stadium by children. The petals would be assembled during the opening ceremony to form a flower-like canopy, and distributed back to the different nations after the Games," she explained.

Thomas Heatherwick rejects claims that Olympic cauldron is a copy as "spurious nonsense"

Atopia has only recently been allowed to raise its concerns after a gagging order preventing architects, engineers and builders from promoting their involvement in the Games was lifted.

Heatherwick received acclaim from the public for the design of the cauldron, although its positioning inside the Olympic Stadium and out of sight for many visitors to the Olympic park sparked controversy.

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Below are the complete quotes from Thomas Heatherwick, filmmaker Danny Boyle and former head of ceremonies for London 2012, Martin Green:


Thomas Heatherwick, Heatherwick Studio

"This claim is spurious nonsense. The ludicrous accusation that LOCOG briefed us to work with, develop or implement a pre-existing idea and that we acted in accordance with this briefing is completely and entirely untrue.

Before this week, I – and the entire team I was working with – knew absolutely nothing about this proposal, or the ideas it is claimed it contained. None of us saw or were shown the illustrations published in The Guardian on 19 June 2013 until two days ago.

Danny and I evolved the idea for the cauldron over many months, in iterative rounds of discussions and I am appalled at the suggestion that either of us would let ourselves be influenced by any previous work. We were most definitely not steered by LOCOG towards this or any other idea. Any suggestion to the contrary is an affront to our creative integrity.”

Danny Boyle

"As Artistic Director of the London 2012 Olympic Ceremony, I asked Thomas Heatherwick to take on the design of the Olympic Cauldron because of the integrity and originality of his ideas.

Before Tuesday, neither of us had seen, heard of or knew about the existence of the illustrations published in The Guardian on 19 June 2013.

Thomas and I evolved the idea for the cauldron over many months of discussions. I categorically deny that LOCOG briefed us to work with, develop or implement any pre-existing idea that had been presented to them.

I also absolutely and categorically reject any suggestion, whatever its motive, that Thomas or I were influenced by anything other than our obligation to create a ceremonial work of art that celebrated British originality, creativity and engineering.

This is total nonsense and must not be allowed to spoil our appreciation of Thomas's magnificent work."

Martin Green, former Head of Ceremonies, London 2012

“Neither these nor any other images or presentations played any part in the briefing I gave to Danny Boyle and Thomas Heatherwick at the beginning of the process to create the Olympic and Paralympic Cauldron. The design for the cauldron came about solely from the creative conversations between Danny, Thomas and myself.”