Norman Foster has accomplished what other architects can only aspire to: immortality during his own lifetime!
His seemingly effortless accession to worldwide fame and success is quite on the contrary founded on strong work ethics and a tireless self-discipline imbibed in him by his working class background in his hometown of Manchester, the sheer force of his willpower even shines through in his personal life as when he won the battle against bowel cancer a decade ago.
Having turned 75 in June 2010, Lord Foster can look back on a life of incomparable intensity and groundbreaking achievements. His company, Foster + Partners, a global concern based at his Riverside Studios in Battersea, has at times employed up to a 1000 architects in 150cities in 50 countries who work 24 hour shifts 7 days a week, and boasts an endless string of urban projects and buildings that have revolutionised architecture and our outlook on cities and landscapes.
The high-tech buildings owe their futuristic and surreal beauty not only to a visionary imagination but also to their intricate interaction with the environment. Among the highlights of recent years are the reconstruction and glass dome of the Reichtsag in Berlin (German Parliament), the design of the Great Court at the British Museum, the Millennium Bridge, the new Hong Kong airport, Canary Wharf underground station as well as the so-called Gherkin at 30 St. Mary 's Axe in London a phallic symbol if ever there was one - and too many more to list in a single article. That may be the reason why this year has seen both the publication of an authorized biography by Deyan Sudjic as well as the screening of a mesmerizing documentary by Norberto Lopez and Carlos Carcas on Foster and his work.
Foster has won international recognition and innumerable awards, among which most notably his life peerage in 1999 and that same year the Pritzker prize, considered the Nobel prize in architecture, stand out. He could now enjoy his well-deserved retirement as the richest and most successful architect in the world in his 18th century chateau where he lives in tax haven between Lausanne and Geneva. But that would be entirely misjudging the competitive and youthful mind of a man who still takes part in marathons and bike races. Though he confesses to Geoffrey Macnab in The Independent that 'the architect really has no power' in comparison to the client who pays for the building, he concedes to Jonathan Glancey of The Guardian that his idol has always been Oscar Niemeyer in Rio, who 's still busy at work at a 102, and that 'in any case, I just would not know how to stop.'
Foster + Partners
22 Hester Road
London SW11 4AN
Tel. + 44 (0) 20 7738 0455
Fax. + 44 (0) 20 7738 1107
Norman Foster: A Life in Architecture
by Deyan Sudjic, Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
How Much Does Your Building Weigh, M. Foster?
by Norberto Lopez and Carlos Carcas.
By Reya von Galen
More about Architecture