Norman Foster is one of Britain’s most celebrated architects, having played an integral role in shaping the High Tech movement during the 1970s. His inexhaustible portfolio covers projects in more than twenty countries, featuring commissions for airports, civic structures, banks and public infrastructure. Throughout his career, Foster has forged a reputation for complex designs that adopt the most cutting-edge technology available whilst remaining sensitive to environmental concerns. His attitude is one of problem-solving, thinking functionally to create spaces with a keen awareness for their ultimate use.
Foster attended the University of Manchester School of Architecture and City Planning in 1956, before winning the Henry Fellowship to Yale University. In 1967, Foster established his award-winning practice, Foster Associates, now called Foster + Partners. The company operates across six continents, and has so far received more than 620 awards for excellence, as well as around 100 prizes in competitions. Foster has garnered a number of accolades for himself, including the 1999 Pritzker Architecture Prize, the 1994 American Institute of Architects Gold Medal for Architecture and the 1991 Gold Medal of the French Academy of Architecture.
The High Tech movement
Much of Norman Foster’s extensive influence stems from his work within the High Tech movement, also known as Structural Expressionism or Late Modernism. During the 1970s, architects capitalised on technological advances to revolutionise skyscraper design, using steel tube frames to maximise floor space while creating larger stretches of uninterrupted windows. Foster helped to pioneer this approach, which can often be recognised by its construction-exposing aesthetic, reliance on steel and glass, and flexible interiors.
The Pritzker Architecture Prize jury particularly praised these engineering-focused elements of Foster’s design work, stating: “From his very first projects, it was evident that he would embrace the most advanced technology appropriate to the task, producing results sensitive to their sites, always with imaginative solutions to design problems.” Part of this sensitivity was associated with his social conscience and commitment to environmentally-friendly architecture. As the jury noted: “His design objectives are guided not only toward the overall beauty and function of a project, but for the wellbeing of those people who will be the end-users.”
Most famous buildings
Foster’s renowned creations include the Gherkin in London, the HSBC headquarters in Hong Kong, the Hearst Tower in New York and the Commerzbank headquarters in Frankfurt. The architect’s next high-profile commission, Apple’s greatly anticipated Cupertino campus, could arguably be his most career-defining.
In the construction of the Gherkin, Foster used almost 7,500 panes of glass to create a slighted graded, bulbous structure. The HSBC building was a similarly grandiose feat of engineering, covering more one million square feet and stretching 44 floors into the skyline. The Hearst Tower and Commerzbank headquarters are both notable for their eco-friendly credentials: The former was the first Manhattan office building to win a gold rating from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design programme, while the latter has been hailed as the world’s first ‘ecological office tower’.
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