Thomas Heatherwick

2020 Recipient of the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT

The Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT recognizes innovative talents and offers the recipient a $100,000 prize and a campus residency.


The Award

Established in 1974 by the Council for the Arts at MIT, the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT is bestowed upon individuals whose artistic trajectory and body of work indicate that they will achieve the highest distinction as leaders in their fields. One of the most generous arts honors in the US, the Award reflects MIT’s commitment to risk-taking, problem solving and to the idea of connecting creative minds across disciplines. The Award is considered an investment in the recipient’s future creative work, rather than a prize for a particular project or lifetime of achievement.


The Residency

A distinctive feature of the Award is a campus residency, which includes a celebratory event at which the Award is presented, a public presentation of the artist’s work and significant interactions with students, faculty and staff. The goal of the residency is to provide the recipient unparalleled access to the creative energy and cutting-edge research found in the MIT community and to have the recipient connect with departments, laboratories and research centers throughout the Institute in ways that will be mutually enlightening.


The Selection Process

The Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT may be given to an artist working in any field or cross-disciplinary activity, including architecture, creative writing, dance, design, filmmaking, media arts, music, theater and visual arts. Award nominees are identified by an Advisory Committee, which is composed of international leaders in arts and culture. An Award Committee, chosen by the Council for the Arts at MIT and comprised of arts leaders at MIT, then selects the recipient.


Eugene McDermott

The Award honors Eugene McDermott (1899-1973), cofounder of Texas Instruments and long-time friend and benefactor of MIT. The Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT was created by the Council for the Arts at MIT in 1974 and further endowed by Eugene’s wife, Margaret (1912-2018).

A geophysicist, Eugene McDermott was a member of the MIT Corporation from 1960 to 1973.  The scholarship funds he established at MIT reflect his commitment to education and the public art he donated a conviction, shared with his wife Margaret, that the physical environment of a campus has great influence upon the character of an institution.  They commissioned Eugene’s Stevens Tech classmate Alexander Calder to create The Great Sail, which was dedicated in 1966 on McDermott Court, facing the Green building.  In 1976, the McDermott family and other friends of MIT made a gift of Three Piece Reclining Figure, Draped, by Henry Moore, which graces Killian Court.

Thomas Heatherwick is a British designer whose prolific and varied work over two decades is characterized by its ingenuity, inventiveness, and originality. Defying the conventional classification of design disciplines, he founded Heatherwick Studio in 1994 to bring the practices of design, architecture, and urban planning together in a single workspace.

Thomas leads the design of all Heatherwick Studio projects, working in collaboration with a team of 200 highly-skilled architects, designers, and makers. Thomas’ unusual approach applies artistic thinking to the needs of each project, resulting in some of the most acclaimed designs of our time. Based in London, Heatherwick Studio is currently working in four continents.

Following the success of the UK Pavilion for the Shanghai World Expo in 2010, Heatherwick Studio has gone on to win exciting design briefs including the Learning Hub at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, the new Google campuses in London and California in collaboration with BIG (currently under construction), and a new terminal for Singapore’s Changi Airport in partnership with KPF. Heatherwick has been appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, a Royal Academician, and in 2004 became the youngest Royal Designer for Industry.

Upcoming Events

Keynote Lecture: Thomas Heatherwick
Saturday, April 25, 2020 / 5:00pm
MIT Huntington Hall, Building 10-250
Cambridge, MA

Free and open to the public; registration is required and will be available March 1, 2020.

Architect Magazine: Thomas Heatherwick Wins MIT’s 2020 Eugene McDermott Award

Archinect: Designer Thomas Heatherwick Awarded 2020 Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT Award includes $100K prize, artist residency, gala and public program at MIT

World Architecture: Thomas Heatherwick receives 2020 Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT

The Construction Specifier: Thomas Heatherwick receives 2020 Eugene McDermott Award from MIT

Thomas Heatherwick. Credit: Elena Heatherwick.
Thomas Heatherwick. Credit: Elena Heatherwick.

Selected Past Projects