E X T R U S I O N S
As an undergraduate student the studio’s founder Thomas Heatherwick had a chance to visit an aluminium factory and see the industrial process of extrusion, commonly used to manufacture components by passing the hot metal through a shaped hole in a steel plate, known as a die. What attracted him most, in this otherwise highly refined process, were the warped shapes produced when the first section of metal passed through the die, catching unevenly on its surfaces and contorting before becoming perfectly straight. Even though normally these imperfect, mutated sections were cut off and thrown away; to him they were the best part.
This initially led him to develop a concept for airport or station seating that could be manufactured as a single component using the extrusion process to squeeze it out in one go, like toothpaste. However at that time no machine existed that was capable of producing an extruded cross section on this scale. But after sixteen years a single machine was created in Asia for manufacturing aerospace components, which was big enough, and the studio had the opportunity to trial its design ideas using the largest extrusion die ever produced. The initial experiment was a success and the studio created a series of pieces in which a straight, clean, extruded length is contrasted with its raw, contorted end.