Asking questions.The inventive Thomas Heatherwick.

Thomas Heatherwick, inventor of the Olympic Cauldron amongst many other incredible things, was interviewed by Joanna Lumley at the sweltering Buxton Festival last weekend. I sat there feeling as though my brain was being tickled. This quietly-spoken, modest man is a master of divergent thinking.

I took the plunge and spent £29.95 on his book, ‘Making’. I love the way that each ‘case study’ begins with a question.

How can every country in the world take part in making and lighting the Olympic Cauldron? (Watching the copper petals rising made me well up, once again).

Can a London bus be better and use 40% less fuel? (Heatherwick’s new Routemaster bus, commissioned by Boris.)

Can you make a park out of a desert instead of placing a European garden on top of it?(A proposal to elevate the surface of the desert in Abu Dhabi shading a cooled park underneath.)

How can you make a real virtual object? (A centrifugal chandelier).

Can a tower touch the sky gently? (A gradated tower that is dense at the base but graduates to near transparency at its top.)

How can a building represent a nation? (The ‘hairy’ UK Pavilion at the 2007 World Fair in Shanghai, like a Play-doh figure with hair growing out of its head.)

It all underlines the point that, sometimes, creativity comes from finding and knowing the right questions to ask.

Heatherwick Studio

By Liz Holt