Lord Foster runs Foster & Partners, England, which is certainly one of the most celebrated architect offices in the world of the last century. Not only prolific, the practice has consistently pushed boundaries, especially in terms of materials and technology, but also of form and building envelope.
Norman was born in Manchester, 1935. Having moved to London and worked in Team 4, he established Foster Associates in 1967. This continued the Hi-Tec (or High-Tech) style of Team 4 with influences from Archigram. Prefabrication and modular design were clear goals, with a passion for good detailing. During the postmodern years, the Foster & Partners style became a little more colourful, but never strayed from technological rigor. In the 21st century, with new computer technology, forms have become more flowing; for example, Beijing airport and the Swiss Re Building. Over the years a stunning array of buildings and bridges has emerged from the Foster & Partners office, each one remarkably different from the previous.
Britain's most prolific builder of landmark office buildings had an early interest in architecture, particularly in the works of Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier. He won the Henry Fellowship to the Yale School of Architecture, where he met former business partner Richard Rogers and earned his Master's degree. A close association with Rogers also influenced his tricks and traits of his practice. Foster and Partners in 1968 saw the beginning of a long period of collaboration with American architect Richard Buckminster Fuller, which continued until Fuller's death in 1983. Their partnership became a catalyst in the development of an environment sensitive approach to design, including the Samuel Beckett Theatre project. Sustainability and eco-sensibility of the structure forms the basis of Foster’s inspiration for design. Choice of materials, design elements, sometimes even the form of the building all evolves from this inspirational approach.
Foster's earlier designs reflected a sophisticated, machine-influenced high-tech vision. His style has since evolved into a more sublime, sharp-edged modernity. Today, Foster + Partners works with its engineering collaborators to integrate complex computer systems with the most basic physical laws, such as convection. The approach creates intelligent, efficient structures like the Swiss Re London headquarters at 30 St Mary Axe, nicknamed ‘The Gherkin’. The ‘High Tech’ vocabulary of Foster Associates shows an uncompromising exploration of technological innovations and forms. The firm's work also shows a dedication to architectural detailing and craftsmanship. Their designs emphasise the repetition of industrialised ‘modular’ units, in which prefabricated off-site-manufactured elements are frequently employed. The firm often designs specialist components for individual projects. The key to Foster’s approach is that he seems always to be aspiring to another world, partly that of a long-gone age — the world of industrial pioneers, the mystical and fascinating world or a world of contemporary futurism, space conquest, science fiction and cartoon strips, a world of superhuman places. Foster's single-minded individualism is exceptional; he refuses to be lumped in with the 'high-tech' style and recognises no professional peers.
“... no detail should be considered too small. The ends are always social - generated by people rather than the hardware of buildings...”
“... Since it's inception, more than thirty years ago, the studio has been driven by the pursuit of design excellence, based on a belief that our surroundings directly influence the quality of our lives, whether in the workplace, at home or in the wide variety of public spaces in between...”
“... We use technology, but not just for its own sake. I believe that the best architecture comes from a synthesis of all of the elements that comprise a building: the structure that holds it up, the services that allow it to work, the ecology of the building - whether it is naturally ventilated, whether you can open a window, the quality of natural light, the materials used - their mass or their lightness, the character of the spaces, the symbolism of the form, the relationship of the building to the skyline or the streetscape and the way in which the building signals its presence in the city or the countryside. I think that holds true whether you are creating a landmark or deferring to historical setting. Successful architecture addresses all these things and many more...”
“The quest for quality embraces the physical performance of buildings
- How do they endure in a world subject to volatile change?
- Do they survive or become obsolete?
- Does the quality of thinking that lies behind their design anticipate needs, which could not even be defined when they were created?
Only the test of time can tell...”
“The last thirty years have witnessed changes in public attitudes to high consumption of energy and the shift to a more caring attitude to ecology. Foster projects have anticipated these trends.”
His Impact / His Projects:
Major Buildings by Foster + Partners
Willis Faber & Dumas Headquarters, Ipswich, England (1974)
Sainsbury Centre, Norwich, England (1977)
Renault Distribution Centre, Swindon, England (1982)
Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank, Hong Kong (1986)
Stansted Airport Building, England (1991)
Carré d'Art, Nîmes, France (1993)
Chek Lap Kok Airport, Hong Kong (1998)
Reichstag Building, Berlin, Germany (1999)
British Museum Great Court, London, England (2001)
30 St Mary Axe - aka Swiss Re Building, London, England (2004)
Millau Viaduct, France (2004)
1971–1975, Willis Faber and Dumas Headquarters, Ipswich, UK
1979–1986, HSBC Main Building, Hong Kong
1994, Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska
1988–1995, Metro of Bilbao, Spain
1995, Faculty of Law, Cambridge
1992–1998, Hong Kong International Airport, Chek Lap Kok, Hong Kong
1996–2000, Millennium Bridge, London, United Kingdom
2001, Al Faisaliyah Center, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
2005, 40 luxury apartments, St. Moritz, Switzerland
2005, National Police Memorial, The Mall, London, United Kingdom
2005, The Philological Library at the Free University of Berlin, Germany
2005, Deutsche Bank Place, Sydney, Australia (the first Sir Norman Foster building in the Southern Hemisphere)
2002-2006, Dresden Hauptbahnhof reconstruction, Dresden, Germany
2006, Hearst Tower, New York City, United States
2006, The Leslie L. Dan Pharmacy Building at the University of Toronto, Canada
2006, Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, Astana, Kazakhstan
2002-2007, Wembley Stadium, London, United Kingdom
2004-2007, The Willis Building, City of London, United Kingdom
2005–2007, Thomas Deacon Academy
2004–2007, Kogod Courtyard, Centre for American Art and Portraiture at the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC
2007, International Terminal, Beijing Capital International Airport, Beijing, China