Page N3.1 . 11 October 2000                     
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    Norman Foster : Analog and Digital Ecology

    by Michael J. Crosbie

    Norman Foster's keynote address at this year's Bentley International User Conference in Philadelphia on Tuesday reminded me again why he is considered one of the most intelligent architects practicing today.

    In a wide-ranging talk that tied together themes found in his work for over 30 years, Foster stressed the importance of melding the technological with human experience, or the "digital with the analog," as he called it.

    Foster was introduced at the conference (hosted by Bentley Systems, Inc., a leading AEC software company) as "the world's most decorated architect." While that distinction seems to suggest a militant career on the battlefield of the building site, it appears nonetheless true. Among Foster's honors is the Royal Institute of British Architects' Gold Medal, a Knighthood, a life peerage in Britain's House of Lords, the American Institute of Architects' Gold Medal, and the Pritzker Prize (known as architecture's Nobel).

    Striding to the podium in a light gray suit and smart yellow striped tie, Foster looked every bit the master architect of his resume.

    For those in the audience expecting the standard star-architect lecture (a monotonous survey through trays of slides with no discernible purpose other than to show what the star has been up to lately) Foster's presentation was a pleasant surprise, with a purpose and a message.

    The purpose was to demonstrate how this architect, who now commands an office of 500 on the south bank of London's Thames River, strives to make buildings that are intelligent and ecologically responsible. The message is that architecture needs to grow from both the intellect and the soul.

     

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    ArchWeek Photo

    This week, noted British architect Norman Foster addressed an audience in Philadelphia at the Bentley International User Conference.
    Photo: Bentley Systems, Inc.

    ArchWeek Photo

    Built in 1975, the office building for Willis Faber at Ipswich represents a turning point for the Foster studio, developing earlier themes such as glass cladding systems.
    Photo: Ken Kirkwood

     

    Click on thumbnail images
    to view full-size pictures.

     
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