Founded in 1992, Foreign Office Architects (FOA) is an international architecture practice led by Farshid Moussavi and Alejandro Zaera-Polo. The firm is based in London and provides masterplanning, architecture and interior design services for the public and private sectors. FOA's name refers to the fact that its principals, Alejandro Zaera Polo, 38, and Farshid Moussavi, 37, are Spanish and Iranian, and its office has projects in Japan, the United States, the Netherlands and Spain. It has emerged as one of the most significant architecture and urban design practices today, known for combining technical innovation with design excellence and has produced critically acclaimed and award winning projects. In their approach to architecture, FOA are new pragmatists, bringing great technical rigor in their focus on organic growth and the evolution of design ‘species,’ hybridising uses relating to both local and global conditions. The work unfolds rigorously through a broad variety of locations and typologies. The Yokohama Pier Port Terminal, Japan (2002), the project that put the practice on the map, is a hybrid of non-Cartesian industrial infrastructure and versatile social functionality.

Their Inspiration:
FOA’s projects, carried out in fourteen cities worldwide, are known for combining technical innovation with design excellence and for integrating functional, environmental and socio-cultural factors. Readings by French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Gauttari have a profound influence on their works and designs. This firm has emerged as one of the world’s most creative and sought-after young architectural firms. Partners, husband and wife, have been critically acclaimed for the originality and diversity of their designs, which reflect the increasing globalisation and complexities of contemporary life. Their body of work, praised for its use of dramatic form and innovative materials, reflects their fascination with the interplay of architecture and inspiration from landscape and nature.
Alejandro Zaera-Polo had an unusually early involvement as a theorist, writing for El Croquis from as early as 1987, where he identified and theorised the work of contemporary established architects. His early theoretical work inaugurates a materialist critique of architecture departing from deconstruction and critical theory, the predominant theoretical discourses in the 1980’s. It is also deeply influenced by the readings of Deleuze and Guattari and complexity theory, connecting him to the discourse practiced in America by authors such as Jeffrey Kipnis, Sanford Kwinter and Greg Lynn, and by the reading of neomarxist authors, such as Manuel Castells, David Harvey and Henri Lefebvre, which left a strong political bias to his approach to architectural theory. After these early adventures, he succeeded in transferring his early theoretical interests into a viable architectural practice, as a founding partner of FOA. With a characteristic sniper-like style, Zaera Polo’s recent theoretical work has been published through articles in different media, constantly changing position and location to address contemporary subjects in a poignant and polemical manner.
Their Philosophy:
FOA is more interested in the plastic aspect of architecture. They try to compose new aggregates and include geometry in their projects as a very important tool. Constantly layering decisions to find alternatives and at a certain moment the project freeze with precise crystallisation of decisions. Their architecture is generated by a complex tiling geometry, not matched by nature, but generative of it. The practice displays a unique combination of organic and rationalist approaches in the same breath coupled with geometrical exploration. Contrary to the concept of architecture as the embodiment of an image, FOA considers architecture as projects without end, that continually exist. Some of the ideas and geometries seemed a little contrived and expensive, but the radical newness drives them to evaluate the potential of building anew and incorporate new information.

Their Impact / Their Projects:
Range of projects with varied locations and typologies:
In the UK:
John Lewis department store and Cineplex at the Shires West Development, Leicester (2000–8)
In the UK, projects under way include:
The Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication in the Greenwich Peninsula (2005–)
Trinity EC3, an office complex in the City of London (2003–)
The mixed use extension of the West Quay retail centre in Southampton (2002–)
Sevenstone Quarter, a mixed-use complex in Sheffield (2007–)
Hadspen Gardens, Somerset (2005–)
The redevelopment of Euston Station in London
A Maggie’s Centre for cancer patients in Newcastle upon Tyne (2007–)

In Spain (where FOA has a local branch) completed projects include:
The La Rioja Technology Transfer Centre, Logrono (2003–7)
A social housing in Carabanchel, Madrid (2004–7)
A 50,000m2 coastal park with outdoor auditoria in Barcelona (2000–4)
Police headquarters in La Villajoyosa (2000–3)
Municipal Theatre in Torrevieja (2000–6)
In Spain, projects under way include:
The Institute of Legal Medicine in Madrid (2006–)
The D-38 Office Complex in Barcelona (2004–)
The Hotel Masaveu in Gijón (2006–)
A Residential Tower in Durango (2004)

Completed projects in other European locations include:

The Blue Moon Hotel in Groningen, the Netherlands (1999–2000)
The Umraniye Retail Complex and Multiplex, in Istanbul, Turkey (2007)
A Villa in Pedralbes, Barcelona (2008)

Other European projects include:
The Mahler 4 office building in Amsterdam (2000–)
The future Aerospace Campus in Toulouse, France (2006–)

Projects completed in Asia include:
The Spanish Pavilion at the 2005 Aichi International Expo in Japan (2004–5)
A headquarters building for Dulnyouk Publishers, Paju, South Korea (2000–5)

In the USA FOA is developing:
The Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland, Ohio, USA, (2006–)

In Asia FOA is currently:
Building two 180m high housing towers at the World Business Centre in Busan, South Korea (2006–)
The KL Sentral Plot D Residential Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (2006–)

Their quotes:

"We started with certain principles and later combined and changed them. The changes are never visual or aesthetic; they are always technical or practical. We do not believe in the origin or in the end of a project. We believe in the medium of the process. We are totally opportunistic. The end is determined only by external forces, like deadlines of the contractors or the client."

“No one sees the world quite like Foreign Office Architects. Our architecture lifts flaps of skin from the ground and mutates them in contorted twists, like plastic surgery for the earth’s surface.”