Foster's architecture spans high-tech and beauty

14th December 2004, Comments 0 comments

LONDON, Dec 14 (AFP) - Sir Norman Foster, the British architect behind the world's tallest bridge inaugurated Tuesday in southern France, has a reputation for clean modernism and striking design that have transformed cityscapes from London to Hong Kong.

LONDON, Dec 14 (AFP) - Sir Norman Foster, the British architect behind the world's tallest bridge inaugurated Tuesday in southern France, has a reputation for clean modernism and striking design that have transformed cityscapes from London to Hong Kong.

The 69-year-old winner of the 1999 Pritzker Prize, the most prestigious laureate awarded to architects, designed the transparent dome topping the Reichstag (German parliament) in Berlin as well as its new interior.

His imprint is strong on the British capital, with the high-tech Millennium Bridge spanning the river Thames, as well as the Millennium Tower, dubbed the "erotic gherkin" by some locals for its round shape and conical top.

He has also renovated Trafalgar Square and the interior of the British Museum, and is at work on a giant new Wembley Stadium.

With his studio Foster and Partners, he designed the new Chek Lap Kok airport for Hong Kong, the highest building in Europe - the headquarters of the Commerzbank in Frankfurt - and the dramatic HSBC skyscraper in Hong Kong, one of the city's most famous and most expensive architectural works.

Today his projects include the Beijing international airport, to be the world's largest, as well as a building for the World Trade Centre complex being rebuilt in lower Manhattan.

His work, known for its elegant modernism and focus on craftsmanship, is concerned with high-tech solutions for practical, ecological problems.

The Millennium Tower, home to the Swiss Re headquarters, was London's first "environmental skyscraper", with a shape designed to bring in maximum natural light and ventilation to keep energy costs down. Its circular shape allows for more open park space around it.

The Hong Kong airport, too, copies Foster's earlier use at London's Stansted airport of a lightweight roof and natural lighting, creating a more open space for passenger traffic. Beijing's airport will be made to accommodate 60 million passengers per year by 2015 and will use environmental control systems for greater heat efficiency.

Foster's London office is a light-flooded open workspace on the edge of the south bank of the Thames, undivided and non-hierarchical and where even Foster works alongside some of his 500-plus collaborators.

With past or present projects in 48 countries and a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II, Lord Foster has come a long way from his humble origins in the northern English city of Manchester.

"I come from a working-class neighbourhood," he told the Christian Science Monitor in an interview.

"In Britain the idea one could go from blue-collar beginnings to the university, was so far out, it was quite unthinkable," he recalled.

Foster was born in Manchester on June 1, 1935, and started architectural studies at the city university late in life, at 21. To pay his school costs, he sold ice cream and worked as a bouncer in nightclubs.

He won a scholarship to continue his graduate studies at Yale University's prestigious school of architecture in New Haven, Connecticut.

There he met Richard Rogers, a fellow Briton who would later go on to design, with the Italian Renzo Piano, the Pompidou Centre in Paris. Foster and his wife Wendy, and Rogers and his wife Sue, all architects, together founded Team 4, their first architectural firm.

Foster went on to create Foster Associates in 1967, later renamed Foster and Partners.

His meteoric career has not been without setbacks, notably with the inauguration of the Millennium Bridge in London.

The suspension bridge, designed with sculptor Anthony Caro, is the river's sole pedestrian-only crossing, and the first bridge to built in over a century.

Built of stainless steel and aluminium, its thin, almost delicate and elegant profile links the City financial district with the new Tate Modern and renovated south bank district.

But on its opening day in June 2000, with 150,000 people on it, the bridge began to swing. Mocked as the "Indiana Jones bridge" by the British press, it shut immediately to be re-fitted, and reopened in February 2002.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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