New York studio Atopia found itself at the centre of the controversy last week after the Guardian reported its claims that it designed a structure of objects on tall stems – strikingly similar to Heatherwick’s Cauldron – in 2007, and submitted the designs to the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games.
Heatherwick reacted quickly to deny any intimation of copying, saying that any suggstions that he or Locog had implemented a pre-existing idea were ‘ludicrous’.
Now Atopia has moved to defuse the row, saying ‘We have never accused Thomas Heatherwick of plagiarism [and] we have never claimed to be designers of the Cauldron.’
Instead, Atopia says it is ‘entirely focused on the issue of how ideas transmit through large organisations’.
Atopia chief executive Jane Harrison says the consultancy did not show images of its concept in its presentation to Locog, only the script, which focused on the concept of constructing a pavilion from ‘umbrellas’ carried into the Olympic stadium during the opening ceremony by a representative of each participating team.
She told Design Week, ‘This is not about images, this is about the power of a script that was protected by an NDA.’ She says the concept was presented to Locog in 2008 and was ‘well known’ to Locog leadership from then on.
The Atopia statement continues, ‘The issue for us is not about the object, nor is it about Heatherwick’s design. It does bear a striking resemblance to our project work and sketchbook from 2008 and as such this has been the point of focus for the press.
‘But for us right now this is not the point. It is the written narrative that we are concerned with as this is the key component in the way we work.
‘It is the narrative scenario along with our other tender content that we do believe proved inspirational to Locog and this is what it was intended to do. We have sought a formal acknowledgement for this from Locog since July 2012.’
Martin Green, former head of ceremonies for London 2012, has said, ‘Neither [Atopia’s images] nor any other images or presentations played any part in the briefing I gave to [Opening Ceremony artistic director] 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.’