Talking with Norman Foster
by Hanno Rauterberg
Whenever he can he likes to fly himself, be it in his private jet, or in a helicopter. Norman Foster loves flying and he must love it. He is constantly on his way to Moscow, Abu Dhabi, Beijing or to one of the many other cities in which he is planning and building his numerous projects. Born in 1935, Norman Foster has been in the business for over 40 years. He's built many records, the biggest, longest and most expensive buildings of the world, won all the important architectural prizes and awards, and even acquired a peerage – and yet his fame is still growing. He wrote architectural history with an office building in Ipswich and an airport in Stansted early on in his career. Many office buildings and airports worldwide are built according to ideas he first formulated. Foster has also chivvied ecological building along, for example with the Commerzbank Headquarters in Frankfurt and the rebuilding of the Reichstag in Berlin. But all that looks almost modest in comparison with the projects he and his firm are working on today. Gigantic high-rise buildings are in prospect, whole towns have been commissioned from him, and the Foster architectural machine seems to whirl along faster and faster. But when we finally meet in a hotel garden beside Lake Geneva, with the sky summery blue, children splashing about in the pool, all the hectic pace drops away. He looks as if he were on holiday by the sea, white trousers, white polo shirt, a pink belt and orange moccasins – even though he's just come from the office. He works a lot down here in Switzerland now. His home is here, and so is his young family.
Lord Foster, can I start with a naive question?
If I one day had a notion to build myself a little house in Hamburg, maybe four rooms, 140 square meters (1,500 square feet), could I telephone you and ask your firm to do it?
(laughs) That's not naive, that's a difficult question.
Because I have to be very diplomatic now.
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British architect Norman Foster was the 1999 recipient of the Pritzker Prize, and has received awards from the RIBA and AIA. His firm, Foster + Partners, is headquartered in London and has offices in New York, Madrid, Abu Dhabi, and Hong Kong.
Photo: Yukio Futagawa
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The Stansted Airport (1991), in London, England, established Foster as a designer of beautiful, structurally expressive airport terminals. Image does not appear in book.
Photo: Claudio Divizia/ Artifice Images
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