British architect Lord Norman Foster is one of the most influential architects of our time. Born in Manchester to working-class parents, he was educated at the University of Manchester and Yale.
Foster established his own firm, Foster + Partners, in London in 1967. Today it’s a global practice with offices in 20 countries. His style has been described as high-tech, and he is known for his fascination with airports and flight.
In a 2017 article, he wrote about projects being hard to come by in the 60s: “We started with the humble needs of a shower block for the Fred Olsen Shipping Line in East London’s Docklands…The result was…a radical proposal to dissolve the barriers between white- and blue-collar workers with a combined operations and amenity center that offered the same high standards for everyone.”
He designed the IBM Pilot Head Office Building in Portsmouth (1971), constructed to maximize natural light, and create an efficient and flexible office space. It was one of the early projects that influenced his fascination with sleekness, advanced technology, and sustainable design.
Foster has received numerous awards throughout his career, including the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture, and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Gold Medal. Foster + Partners has earned accolades such as the Stirling Prize for outstanding architectural achievements.
Chek Lap Kok Airport in Hong Kong, constructed in 1998, is one of the world’s largest and most advanced airports. Foster’s architecture emphasizes natural lighting, integration of technical equipment, and ease of understanding routes. The terminal building is expected to handle 80 million passengers per year by 2040.
In 1999, he completed his project to rehabilitate the Reichstag building in Berlin. Originally built to house the parliament of the German Empire, it has a complex history. He transformed the building, adding a glass dome on top, symbolizing transparency in government and the reunified Germany’s commitment to democracy.
In the UK, he designed the Millennium Bridge, a pedestrian suspension bridge that spans the River Thames in London. Opened to the public in 2000, it provides incredible views of St. Paul’s Cathedral and has become a popular tourist attraction.
He is probably most famous for designing The Gherkin, the iconic skyscraper in the heart of London’s financial district. Completed in 2003, this landmark has a distinctive, cylindrical shape and a glass-clad exterior that spirals up to a height of 41 stories. It has energy-efficient features, natural ventilation, and an open floor plan with modern and sustainable office space.
His amazing designs, sustainable practices, and aesthetically striking structures have left a lasting mark on the global architectural landscape. Foster’s philosophy continues to shape the built environment around the world and his work never fails to leave me excited for what’s next.