Born in Manchester in 1935, Sir Norman Foster is a profound designer of landmark office buildings. His design practice, Foster and Partners, is internationally renowned and praised for its high-tech architectural style.
Recognised for his slick, contemporary steel and glass constructions, often featuring innovative contouring and inner space styling, Foster is cited as one of the most prolific architects of his generation. He has received numerous awards throughout the years, including in 1999 the Pritzker Architecture Prize, frequently referred to as the Nobel Prize of Architecture. A decade later, he was awarded the prestigious Prince of Asturias Award of Arts.
As a young child, Foster found himself fascinated by trains, vehicles, and aircraft, leading to a more specific interest in engineering and design processes. In 1953, he undertook National Service with the Royal Air Force, a choice inspired by his early childhood passions. On returning to Manchester, he landed his first job at a local architectural practice where staff were impressed by his sketching and encouraged him to build up a professional portfolio of drawings.
Foster had his first big break in the late seventies, with his Willis Faber & Dumas headquarters building design. A low-rise office building based in Ipswich, heralded for its unique contoured facades, encasing an idyllic nature-inspired interior.
The following years saw Foster and his team working on the design for the three-towered Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation headquarters, before heading up a huge refurbishment project on the glazed dome of Berlin’s iconic Reichstag building.
In the late nineties, Foster was assigned a brief to redevelop the site of the Baltic Exchange, an area damaged beyond repair in IRA attacks. Foster and Partners pitched a 385 metre skyscraper, dubbed The London Millennium Tower, but the plan was rejected due to concerns about its extreme height on London’s skyline. Foster scrapped the plans and went on to propose the now landmark structure, 30 St Mary’s Axe, more commonly known as The Gherkin.
In 2004, Foster designed the tallest bridge in the world, the Millau Viaduct, Southern France, to which Mayor Jacques Godfrain responded; “Norman Foster, gave us a model of art”. Foster also contributed to the iconic New York City skyline with his design of the 44-storey Hearst Tower, featuring a triangulated facade atop an Art Deco styled foundation.
Working alongside Steve Jobs, Foster played an integral role in the design and construction of California’s Apple Park, headquarters for tech giant, Apple. He also partnered with Philippe Starck and Sir Richard Branson of the Virgin Group to develop plans for the Virgin Galactic.
Foster currently sits on the Board of Trustees at Article 25, an architectural charity, championing the design and construction of safe, sustainable, and innovative buildings in some of the most notorious regions in the world.
Contributing creative and clever design ideas to a plethora of well loved and famous sustainable structures around the world, Norman Foster’s work holds a prominent place in the hearts of many, and that is the reason we have picked him as this month’s architect focus.