Norman Foster has never run a movie studio or theme park, but he could stand in as double for Disney’s former Michael Eisner. His inquisitive demeanor is as disarming as it is confidence building. There is a natural balance to his speaking cadence, unforced, and unintentional. Foster seems to have been a kid who spent recess reading the encyclopedia, yet still got the girls.
Foster brings to a project not only international acclaim, but an even greater aura. Warranted or not, Foster has successfully created a reputation that is as persuasive as his work. The magazine Metropolis published a story entitled Norman Foster vs. New York. The story detailed the expectations that complicated Fosters’ failed presentation to rebuild the World Trade Center. Metropolis writer Philip Nobel writes, "Norman Foster has come to Manhattan, and the city is eating him alive," Nobel continues, [Foster] seemed to have swept into New York preceded by trumpeters and surrounded by courtiers and sycophants. Lord Foster had arrived. The city would finally get its world-class architecture."
These were lofty expectations for a kid born on June 1, 1935 in Manchester, England. Foster grew up to earn a Master’s Degree in Architecture from Yale University and is a 1961 graduate of The Manchester University School of Architecture and City Planning. Foster spent five years with the firm Team 4, an architectural practice he founded his wife and two friends. In 1967, he launched Foster + Partners. This practice has become world-renowned with U.N. like statistics,
operating projects in 150 cities, in 50 different countries, speaking 40 different languages, with a staff of over 1,250.
The range of Foster projects is broad in scope from urban master planning, airports, private, civic and cultural buildings. The Norman Foster style has a sensitive tendency towards honey-comb,
dome-like designs. His approach can be best experienced while viewing his work at 30 St. Mary Axe in London, England. St. Mary Axe is a commercial office tower/skyscraper, with glass cladding and a high-tech modern layout. Its vertical pickle shape is actually very appealing, and more appealing the more one looks upon it. St. Mary Axe is also environmentally sustainable with windows in the light well that open to augment air conditioning.
To his credit, Foster has been a proponent of building green long before it was a fashionable title. He was studying environmentally conscious building designs in the mid-1970’s for Gomera, in the Canary Islands. Foster writes in his published paper, Architecture and Sustainability, "…Sustainability is not a matter of fashion, but of survival. Sustainable architecture can be simply defined as doing the most with the least means. The Miesian maxim, less is more."
The New German Parliament in Reichstag, Berlin, Germany is another stunning piece of Foster work. It reminds one of the Washington, D.C. Capitol Building without the peak and is visually transparent. Foster chose a wonderful modern design that creates the visual excitement usually experienced at a rock concert. The center domed Parliament structure is illuminated from the inside at night with streaming spotlights not expected from a house of government. This is combined with additional lighting that successfully simulates a small sports stadium.
Other Foster works fascinating to look upon are The Hearst Tower, New York, The Expo MRT Station, Singapore, The LSE Library, British Library of Political and Economic Science, and the Metropolitan Building in Warsaw.
Foster + Partners has received more than 470 awards and citations for excellence, and has won more than 86 international and national competitions. His most notable awards are: Pritzker
Architecture Prize Laureate in 1999 and the Praemium Imperiale Award for Architecture in 2002. He has been awarded the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal for Architecture (1994), the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture (1983), and the Gold Medal of the French Academy of Architecture (1991). In 1990 he was granted a Knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
Lord Norman Foster has been named ‘Britain’s Best 2008’ in the Arts Category for his ground-breaking designs around the world. Accepting the award by video link to a ceremony attended by Gordon Brown, he beat stiff competition from J K Rowling, Damien Hirst and ‘Atonement’ Director, Joe Wright. In accepting his award Foster stated, "I'm absolutely delighted to accept this prestigious award. It is wonderful for our team, which is spread around the world, to receive such recognition for our global achievements."
It is true that past performance is no guarantee of future results, but for Foster + Partners the odds are in soundly in their favor.