14 March 2023

‘Building Soulfulness’: The opening of Heatherwick Studio’s first solo exhibition in Japan

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Heatherwick Studio’s first solo exhibition in Japan ‘Building Soulfulness’ organised and curated by the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, opens today and will run until Sunday 4 June 2023 at Tokyo City View.

The exhibition will feature 28 of the studio’s most iconic designs including, a full-scale model of Airo, the car that cleans the air as it drives, London’s re-designed double decker bus and Little Island, a ‘floating’ public park in New York City. The show was curated by the celebrated Mami Kataoka, formerly International Curator of the Hayward Gallery in London.

Thomas Heatherwick said:

“Over the last three decades my team and I have been passionately trying to create impactful, relatable projects that make our lives more meaningful and joyful. It’s now thrilling to be able to showcase such a vast collection of our work in Japan, where respect for design thinking and craftsmanship is unrivalled. I hope visitors will leave the show feeling like their emotions have not just been respected, but were an essential part of our thinking and fascination!”

Mami Kataoka, the Director of the Mori Art Museum and the curator of the exhibition said:

“Experiencing the true scale of architecture in an art gallery is not easy. For ‘Building Soulfulness’ I’ve looked for ways to showcase the essential philosophy and spirit of Heatherwick Studio’s design by providing six distinct perspectives. The sets designed by the Studio, combined with the grand Tokyo cityscape seen from the Tokyo City View observation deck, will immensely enhance the viewers’ exhibition experience. It is my sincere hope that the show would speak to everyone’s soul.”

The exhibition explores the idea scaling up the soulfulness frequently associated with small objects and the central role of craftsmanship in the studio’s design approach. Divided into six main sections, the show delves into the creative approach and process that the studio applies to each project emphasising the belief that no matter what the scale or budget, each design can have a human scale, embrace the natural world and connect with the environment around it.

The exhibition is an immersive experience, visitors can explore the projects through models on display, playful objects, video content and large-scale images hanging from the ceiling, offering a variety of vistas and viewpoints that evoke the three-dimensionality of the studio’s work. Thomas Heatherwick and Mami Kataoka will give a public talk on Friday 17th March and on Saturday 18th March the studio’s makers, Hannah Parker and Adam Brown, will run a model-making workshop for young visitors.

Each section is outlined below:

  • Opening section: Upon entering the visitors will be greeted with the full-scale part of the Routemaster bus and a model of Airo. A sample table of more than 45 objects will showcase the diversity of the studio’s process.

  • Section 1Coming Together shows how many of the studio’s project are made of smaller parts coming together to create a surprising holistic bigger picture. The bronze petals from the London 2012 Olympic Cauldron and a model of the Tree of Trees will showcase how the unexpected experience of coming together of parts can evoke delight.

  • Section 2: Connecting with Everyone showcases projects that craft opportunities for togetherness, and a connection with natural light and air. Visitors will be able to see a series of models showcasing the evolution of the concept for the Maggie’s Centre in Leeds and the Nanyang Technological University Learning Hub.

  • Section 3: Experiencing Sculptural Space focuses on sculptures designed for spatial experiences. This will be the first time the studio publicly displays a model of the upcoming Hainan Performing Arts Centre. The visitors will also be able to see a 1:10 prototype of the Paternoster vents.

  • Section 4: Feeling Nature in Urban Space displays designs that incorporate trees and nature into urban settings. A wood and metal model of a pergola structure deployed throughout the soon-to-open Azabudai Hills development is displayed here along with a LED lit-up presentation model of the full Tian’an 1000 Trees scheme.

  • Section 5: Bringing Memories to the Future shows the way the studio carries memories of buildings that have outlived their original function and incorporates them into current designs. Visitors will be able to see a cardboard model of the silos of Zeitz MOCAA cut out to incorporate art galleries, as well as a model of Parnham House window previously show at the Royal Academy Summer Show 2022.

  • Section 6: Playing and Using showcases projects that have a playful streak to them. The studio’s Christmas cards and expandable furniture will be on show here.

  • Throughout the show, screens and KEF speakers will be showcasing videos giving visitors a taste of the studio’s design and making processes. On exiting a selection of Spun chairs will be available for rest or play.


The exhibition runs from 17 March until 4 June 2023 at the Tokyo City View:

For tickets and more information, visit Mori Art Museum


Contact details:

Olga Dziewulska, Head of Media, Heatherwick Studio