Heatherwick rejects ‘ludicrous’ Olympic Cauldron plagiarism claims

Thomas Heatherwick says claims that his London 2012 Olympic Cauldron designs were copied from another studio are ‘spurious nonsense’.


Source: Ceremonies Explorer

Thomas Heatherwick’s Olympic Cauldron is lit

The Guardian has reported claims by New York design studio Atopia that it designed a structure of petals on tall stems – strikingly similar to Heatherwick’s Cauldron – in 2007.

Atopia says it was approached by the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games to create designs for a sustainability pavilion and developed a structure of petals that would travel from all the participating countries and be assembled during the Opening Ceremony.

Atopia says it was not paid for the work and was unable to discuss the claims until now, due to a restrictive non-disclosure agreement that expired in January.

The Guardian also quotes former Locog design principal Kevin Owens as saying, ‘Strands of [Atopia’s] work became part of what was taken forward, and I wish there was a way we could acknowledge that.’ Owens, however, also says he had never seen images of Atopia’s proposal.

Heatherwick has issued a strident denial of the claims, saying that any suggestion that he or Locog implemented a pre-existing idea is ‘ludicrous’.

He says, ‘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.’

He adds, ‘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, artistic director of the Opening Ceremony, says, ‘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.’

Martin Green, former head of ceremonies at London 2012, says,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.’

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  • Maxine Horn November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    It’s disappointing that such claims are being made and does uphold the point that ‘ideas’ addressing the same thing could result in similar ideas without ever being disclosed.

    This is one of the very issues the Intellectual Property mechanism Creative Barcode was designed to overcome.
    Designers Barcode their work to provide evidential provenence including ‘time’ stamp and safe disclosure mechanisms

    It would shut down disputes like this in an instant ot conversely proof lack of provenance or a more developed idea, without early work, arising later following a disclosure

    Presumably Danny and Thomas will have early workings to final stage that prove the design journey. And dated documentation ?

  • Mark Magidson November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Sadly the result of the all one sided outrageous tendering procedures that is happening from many government organisations at the moment- and gets my vote for…


  • Damian O'Hara November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I’m surprised that this hasn’t generated more discussion here. It is a case that addresses so many issues in modern design; free pitching, confidentiality agreements, how creative briefs are written and executed intellectual property and rights of redress. It would be interesting to see the written brief in this case and as Maxine says the design evolution to judge this in context.

  • Nick Garrett November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    This kind of churn happens all the time. Of course Danny and his team are closing rank on this… they have a lot to lose. It is highly likely that a favoured element could have been passed across the table as an inhouse design sketch format. It is BS to assume it could not happen… and bold to assume it did. We really need to see the original visuals from both sides.

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