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Last edited 03 Jun 2017
Sir Norman Foster is a British architect famous for prolific and innovative high-tech designs. He is one of the world’s most celebrated architects, having received the 1983 Royal Gold Medal for Architecture and the 1999 Pritzker Prize. His firm Foster + Partners is one of the most high profile in the world, regularly winning commissions for prestigious global projects.
Foster was born in Manchester, England, in 1935. Having left school at 16, he worked in engineering as part of the Royal Air Force before studying architecture at the University of Manchester. His aptitude for drafting won him a scholarship to Yale University’s School of Architecture, where he received a Master’s in 1962.
While at Yale, Foster became friends with Richard Rogers and, together with Su Rogers, Wendy Cheesman and Georgina Wolton, they formed the architectural practice Team 4.
In 1967, Foster left Team 4 to establish Foster Associates, the precursor to what would become Foster + Partners. He also began a long period of collaboration with iconic architect Buckminster Fuller, which continued until Fuller’s death in 1983.
Foster’s big break came with his design for the Willis Faber & Dumas headquarters in Ipswich. The low-rise office building included several innovative features, such as; escalators, contoured facades, nature-oriented interiors, and open-plan office space.
One of the first major public buildings designed by Foster was the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich, completed in 1978.
During the late-1970s and early-1980s, Foster and his team worked on the HSBC Main Building in Hong Kong (see image above), which would become one of his most recognisable projects. In 1990, Foster’s design for the Terminal Building at London Stansted Airport was awarded the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture/Mies van der Rohe Award. In the late-90s, Foster won a design competition for the Reichstag building in Berlin, which included an iconic glass-domed observation platform.
In 2000, the Millennium Bridge over London’s River Thames was completed, although it would be closed for a further two years to correct an unexpected motion that led to it being dubbed the ‘wobbly bridge’.
In 2004, Foster collaborated with the engineer Michael Virlogeux to create the Millau Viaduct, the tallest bridge in the world. His central input was to present a modified version of Virlogeux’s original design which had been dismissed by local authorities as unfeasible.
Other notable projects include:
- Torre de Collserola, Barcelona (1991).
- Commerzbank Tower, Frankfurt (1997).
- Hong Kong International Airport (1998).
- Redevelopment of the Great Court, British Museum, London (1999).
- City Hall, London (2000).
- Sage Gateshead (2004).
- Wembley Stadium (2007).
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