Atopia speaks out on cauldron claims

Monday 24 Jun 2013

Claims that Heatherwick's Olympic Cauldron concept originally suggested by another studio

This week accusations emerged that one of the most popular Olympic Cauldrons in recent history was born of an idea from a practice other than that taking credit. Heatherwick Studio, headed by world-renowned designer Thomas Heatherwick, was fully credited for the designs however a number of allegations have now been made that the story behind the copper bloom concept was originally tendered to LOCOG by New York and London-based design studio Atopia Innovation.

The London 2012 Olympic Cauldron was, for many, the architectural highlight of the Games. During the Opening Ceremony, each of the 204 countries brought with them a copper petal which was affixed to a long horizontal rod. At the climax of the ceremony, these rods were set alight and rose to an upright position in a moment that silenced the stadium.

An excerpt from the expanded text Thomas Heatherwick: Making reads: “Our idea was that each country would bring a unique object to the ceremony and these pieces would come together and co-operate to form a cauldron. When the Games ended, the cauldron would come apart again so that each country could take home their piece of it as a national memento of the event.”

WAN spoke to Jane Harrison, Co-Director of Atopia, who explained that while there are visual similarities between the initial concept pitched by her firm to LOCOG and the final design of the London 2012 Olympic Cauldron, for Atopia the concern was more about the story behind the structure and the wider issues associated with IP Protection.

She explained: “We worked on the Olympics with LOCOG for 2 years from 2006-8 producing a combination of text, diagrams and images, to communicate the framing of a sustainable 21st century Olympics, embracing the impact of interactive TV and social media in a new way.  These were called the 5 Concepts.

“This material was presented in person and confidentially to LOCOG's newly appointed leadership team. On the strength of this work we were invited to submit a tender proposal for the One Planet Pavilion where we went into detail about how you would design an object for the Olympics that was a direct manifestation of these 5 concepts, showing how these concepts framing sustainable thinking could be communicated in a spectacular way to a global audience. 

“We have never accused Heatherwick of plagiarism. We have never claimed to be designers of the cauldron though much of the press continues to state this. We are entirely focused on the issue of how ideas transmit through large organizations, often organically and unconsciously.

“This becomes an even more complex issue when work and material submitted by small organizations is subject to stringent Confidentiality Clauses. 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 of the press. But for us this is not the point.  

“It is the written narrative that we are concerned with as this is key component in the way we work, developing scenarios for clients that allow them to imagine possibilities years ahead of time and catalyze thinking within their organizations to deliver socially engaged innovation­­­­. It is the narrative scenario along with our other tender content that we believe proved inspirational at LOCOG and this is what it was intended to do. All we have ever sought from LOCOG is a formal acknowledgement of this.”

Requests to Heatherwick Studio for comment were unanswered at the time of going to press. 

These issues of IP Protection will be explored in a further article in News Review, WAN's weekly e-newsletter. Should you have a strong view on the topic, please send an email to our editorial team at

Sian Disson
News Editor

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