Beyond 2012 - an integrated Design Story

Olympic Cauldron
A product design story

“The 204 copper pieces which formed the dramatic flourish of the cauldron were made using a combination of new digital technologies and traditional craft techniques.”

Thomas Heatherwick

Tell us about the early design brief

Heatherwick studio was asked by Danny Boyle to design the cauldron for the London 2012 Olympic Games which would be unveiled during the opening ceremony.

Did you know…

  • The London 2012 cauldron is unique in the history of Olympic cauldrons for the way it incorporated every participating country in its creation. The cauldron only existed for the two weeks of the Games, after which the 204 elements were sent back to their country of origin with each of the national teams.

Tell us about your design concept

The 204 copper pieces which formed the dramatic flourish of the cauldron were made using a combination of new digital technologies and traditional craft techniques. As each metal element needed to be geometrically unique, the project designer defined the form of each piece using three-dimensional design software and more than 1,000 hours of laboriously precise work.

This construction information was then passed on to Stage One Creative Services, who used a computer numerically controlled milling machine to carve laminated blocks of MDF into male plugs, around which the copper sheet could be formed. The solid formers were then sent to Contour Autocraft, who used traditional car panel-shaping techniques to hammer templated sheets of copper into the complex forms of the wooden plugs. The completed elements were fixed to the stems of the cauldron in ten elliptical rows. Each stem contained an electrical cable and gas line and was attached to a mechanism made up of ten moving elliptical rings.

The rising of the stems occurred when moving rings were pulled down using screw drives which pulled the back of the stem up, rotating it around a pivot within the mechanism. This process formed one of the defining moments of London 2012, when each competing country’s copper element rose upwards and combined into a single surging flame that symbolised the best of the collaborative human spirit that lies at the heart of the Games.

Agency

Company name
Heatherwick Studio

Project
Olympic Cauldron

Website
heatherwick.com

Project team

Thomas Heatherwick

Katerina Dionysopoulou

Andrew Taylor

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