You won't find a signature style in the work of Thomas Heatherwick, a London-based designer whose projects upend conventions across the globe, without imposing a clearly recognizable "look."
Proclaimed Design Innovator of the Year by the Wall Street Journal in 2015, the Brit is celebrated for his redesign of London's classic double-decker buses, a cauldron for the London Olympic Games, and Google's new headquarters in California (pictured).
Born in 1970, a graduate of the Royal College of Art, the British designer says the world is growing too similar - and he has no wish to speed that process. "There's great benefits to globalization and things that are wonderful and fantastic," Heatherwick told CBS News' Anthony Mason in his London studio. "But it means you need to try to put very deliberate effort now into helping things have their own soulfulness."
"Similarity is your enemy?" asked Mason.
"Well, why do something if it already exists?" Heatherwick replied.
Heatherwick's most celebrated work may be the British Pavilion he created for the Shanghai World Expo in 2010. Rather than reflecting castles and queens and Sherlock Holmes, Heatherwick wanted to highlight London as one of the greenest cities in the world. "And that's where this idea, 'What if we built a seed cathedral?' And everyone's going, 'A seed cathedral? You mean like a nut shop?'"
He implanted seeds in the ends of 60,000 acrylic rods which were then illuminated. The dandelion-shaped structure won first prize and drew eight million visitors.
A former grain silo complex was reinvented as a site for contemporary art housed by a not-for-profit in Cape Town, South Africa. Galleries and a central area were carved from the silos' concrete, forming an atrium with a glass roof.
A new river boat designed for excursions on the Loire in France, capable of sailing in both shallow and deep waters, with maximum visibility for passengers, with the top of the boat a single continuous element from the hull - a closed loop.
Mason asked Heatherwick when he first became interested in design. "I don't think I was ever not interested in design," he replied. "When I was little I just was very tuned in to the functionality and aesthetics of things around me.
"I thought I wanted to be an inventor, but then discovered you couldn't study inventing!" he laughed.
In 2010 Heatherwick was commissioned to redesign London's iconic red double-decker bus - the first such redesign in half a century
He added a door up front and a sweeping window to the back.
An interior view of Thomas Heatherwick's redesigned London double-decker.
Heatherwick's planned Garden Bridge is a pedestrian walkway that will extend nearly 1,000 feet across the Thames, with "hands" coming out of the base of the water holding up a garden. "The hero of a garden bridge must be the garden and not the bridge," he said.
A rendering of the Garden Bridge in London, connecting North and South London with a green pedestrian walkway.
A rendering of the Garden Bridge across the Thames. Plans to build the walkway were scrapped in 2017 owing to a lack of support from public officials.
The Paternoster Vents, in Paternoster Square in London, is an installation which incorporates the vents from a pre-existing underground electricity substation. They are fabricated from dozens of identical stainless steel isosceles triangles, welded and finished with glass bead blasting.
In his London studio, Heatherwick dreamed up a spinning chair ("We knew it could rock, but we hadn't really thought through that it could then go all the way 'round").
Aluminum seating for public spaces, created through the use of an extrusion process.
Bombay Sapphire Distillery
Glasshouses were developed in Bombay Sapphire's refurbishment of its large distillery complex in southern England, which also take into account the surrounding ecosystem of the River Test.
Bombay Sapphire Distillery
The finished structures of the Bombay Sapphire Distillery feature hundreds of individually-shaped, curved glass pieces framed by bronze-finished stainless steel.
Coal Drops Yard
A planned redevelopment of the historic Coal Drops Yard in King's Cross, London, will convert the disused industrial center as a public forum with retail, restaurants and an event space.
Light-weight, block-like structures which can be moved, draped with large transluscent canopies, make up Heatherwick's design for Google's new campus in Mountain View, California. The complex also features bicycle paths, landscaping, cafes and retail outlets.
Teesside Power Station
Heatherwick was asked to design a biomass-fuelled power station in the north of England. The industrial nature of the plant would be screened with seeded slopes, the soil from which would also dampen noise.
A Buddhist temple designed for a hillside site in Kagoshima, Japan. The shape - styled after the undulating folds reminiscent of a monk's robes - was created through the use of a rubberized foam.
The Leaning Hub, a development on the campus of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. A building with stacks of classrooms but without conventional corridors, connecting 56 tutorial rooms, promotes social interactions among students and instructors.
The atrium of the Learning Hub.
Heatherwick Studio was hired to redesign a 650,000-square-meter shopping mall, office and residential complex in Hong Kong. New details were added - as was an increased amount of natural light - without sacrificing the complex's original layout.
In March 2019 the Vessel, Heatherwick's 150-foot-tall, $150 million three-dimensional public space, opened at the center of Hudson Yards, a new mixed-use development on Manhattan's West Side.
Its pieces, crafted in Italy, were shipped to New York and assembled, creating a honeycombed flight of fancy made of 154 flights of stairs.
Stuart Wood, the Heatherwick Studio's point man for the Vessel project, told CBS News' Anthony Mason not to fret climbing 15 stories: "Unlike a normal building, it gets easier the higher up you go; the staircases gets shallower.
"We think of this as a three-dimensional public space, like a park, but taller," Wood said.
Examining the Vessel as workers put the finishing touches in place, Heatherwick said, "Architectural design is a really funny thing. When I was a child, I used to think, 'How do people stay committed to an idea for six years? How can architects wait?'
"Its job is to be the heart [of Hudson Yards]," he said. "And I wanted that to be something that people could use and touch, and not something that they just sort of look at."
Moganshan, a planned mixed-use development covering 15 acres of Shanghai, which would appear to grow out of an adjacent public park, blending trees and plants among historic buildings.
Mason asked, "Do you feel like you're trying to show people something? Like, 'Hey, look, this is what we can do'?"
"Yes," Heatherwick replied. "It's very hard to make things happen. There are a lot of forces against anything with any special-ness happening. So when something at all special happens, I feel very appreciative of it."
For more info:
By CBSNews.com senior producer David Morgan