12 September 2020

Thomas Heatherwick’s tribute to Sir Terence Conran

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“I feel so privileged to have had Sir Terence Conran as a mentor and lifelong friend and will miss him greatly.

He became part of my life when visiting the Royal College of Art in 1993 and I was there studying design. Even though my tutor had insisted that he would be too busy, I knew I needed to speak to him and managed to catch him on the fire escape stairs for a conversation.

Terence was immediately so generous with his time and this conversation was to continue for the next twenty-six years.

The inspiration for chasing someone down a fire staircase was because Terence was unique in the way he was both a visionary and determined designer as well as someone who instinctively understood how to connect people to ideas. It was too easy for the design world to talk to itself but he wasn’t interested in this; he was too busy democratising design and bringing incredible taste to everyone. He stood out as a ray of hope to me because everyone else in design seemed to be stuck in the bubble. 

For me, Sir Terence Conran was one of a small handful of amazing people who dragged Great Britain out of the post-Second World War gloom and modernised the country by revolutionising how we think about our homes, the products we buy for them and even the food we eat and how we eat it.

His impact and influence is around us every day and has been so successful that we don’t even realise where it came from. Without Terence there would have been no Habitat – which in turn inspired Ikea. Without Terence there may still not be excellent food in the United Kingdom. And without Terence there certainly wouldn’t be any Design Museum in London.

The unique and undeniably distinctive stamp of Sir Terence Conran changed the way the rest of the world thought about Britain and it changed the way so many of us think about design.”

Thomas Heatherwick 

Photograph shows Thomas and Sir Terence in 1994 sitting in the studio’s Gazebo project. After meeting at the RCA, Sir Terence invited Thomas to live at his home for four months to be able to build the six and a half metre tall structure. Sir Terence then bought Gazebo and it still stands in the grounds of his home in Berkshire today.