I'm taking 6 months away from my day job to look after my son, Archie, who is 6 months old. I thought it might be interesting to share my experiences.
This week, Archie got to visit his first museum as we took a family day out to the Victoria and Albert Museum and Hyde Park. The V&A is one of my wife's favourite museums and she piqued my interest by telling me about their current exhibition of the work of Thomas Heatherwick and Heatherwick Studios. While you may not know the name you're very likely to have seen something of their work recently as they were responsible for designing and building the stunning Olympic Cauldron for the London 2012 Games. The exhibition is called "Designing the Extraordinary" and it's the first major solo exhibition of the studio.
Like many geeks, while I've never really had much interest in fine arts, I've always had something of an affinity for design. Whether that was playing about with early DTP software on our home Atari ST and trying to make posters and pages look 'right', to my days in software development where the design of the user interface was a core part of developing a good product, I've always been interested in the combination of form and function, of engineering and aesthetic, that is the stuff of design. While many of us might not appreciate a Jackson Pollock, most of us appreciate a Jonathan Ive.
As such, the Heatherwick exhbition really hit a sweet spot and I was surprised to see how much of their work I was already familiar with, from their re-design of the London Routemaster bus, to their bags made from a single zip (a result of them finding out that zips were manufactured in single reels up to 200m), to the world's largest extruded bench, to their controversial sculpture "B of the Bang" which, while beautiful and intriguingly engineered, showed that all projects can be doomed by a single point of failure.
My particular delight, though, was in a series of bridges they developed that could be raised to allow tall traffic to flow through. A couple of these are based on the same rolling bridge idea. The image above gives a good indication of how the bridge works but you really need to see it in motion to appreciate the combination of organic design and engineering. Here's a nice video from the V&A that shows the bridges and some of their other work. I shall have to plan a trip to Paddington to go and see it.
Outside the exhibition there was also the opportunity to try out their "Spun" chair, which is constructed using a technique called metal spinning. A single, two dimensional profile is used to create a symmetrical rotational form that is comfortable, fun and gives a nice, gentle rocking motion that I reckon would be great for nursing babies. Archie and I enjoyed taking it for a spin.