When a new office development was being constructed next to St Paul’s Cathedral in London, the studio was asked to design and configure the cooling system that was to emerge from an underground electricity substation into a new public square.
The outline proposal had been for a single structure that housed the vents needed to cool the substation’s transformers, but this would be a large and bulky object, dominating the public square around it and reducing it to little more than a corridor. The studio set out to shrink the visible mass of the cooling system to a minimum and create a form more appropriate to its sensitive setting close to the cathedral.
Working with the project’s engineers, the studio found that it could reduce the mass of the structure considerably by removing the cool air inlet vents and integrating them into the pavement as flush steel grilles. The taller warm air vents could then be split between two slim structures with a pathway between. This opened up the space and transformed it by creating a composition of two objects that had a chemistry between them.
The final form of the two towers was derived from the structural origami shapes that the studio’s founder, Thomas Heatherwick, had crafted as a design student, folding a single piece of A4 paper into many identical isosceles triangles. The towers are mirror images of each other, each made from sixty-three identical isosceles triangles of stainless steel sheet welded together into a monocoque structure and then glass-bead-blasted to give a soft surface. As the light and shadow reflects differently from the angled facets it gives the impression that they are made from different materials, like a harlequin’s costume.