How Our Most Avant-Garde Architect Fell under the Spell of a Sex Guru; the Most Talked about Match since England V Spain at Wembley

Daily Mail (London), June 24, 1996 | Go to article overview

How Our Most Avant-Garde Architect Fell under the Spell of a Sex Guru; the Most Talked about Match since England V Spain at Wembley


Byline: RICHARD PENDLEBURY

THIS could be a case plucked from a textbook by Freud: the beautiful young psychologist feted as Dr Sex is to marry the British architect who designed Barcelona's communications tower.

I would hesitate to draw Sigmund's obvious conclusion in the pages of a family newspaper, but the joke is already circulating in the tapas bars of Madrid.

Reports of the engagement of Sir Norman Foster, Britain's controversial hero of high-tech modernism, to Elena Ochoa, Spain's number one media guru on sexual matters, provided an unexpected and slightly offbeat prelude to the two countries' sporting confrontation at Wembley in Euro 96.

This week in Hola! (the parent magazine of our own Hello!) the pair were snapped sightseeing at the Alhambra Palace in the southern city of Granada.

Ms Ochoa's divorce has just been finalised, nine months after Sir Norman's short second marriage to `insufferably grand' Sabiha Knight was brought to an end.

The way is clear for matrimony, as was reported by another Spanish magazine in typically hyperbolic fashion: `Her forthcoming marriage to British architect Sir Norman Foster, one of the richest men in the world, will be a civil ceremony in London.'

How did this unlikely couple meet, let alone fall for each other?

Sir Norman, a twice-married father of four who once escorted newsreader Anna Ford, rose from humble beginnings as a Manchester factory worker's son to become the crop-haired guru of the architectural avant garde.

His multinational design empire has produced such modernist masterpieces as Stansted Airport's new terminal, the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank headquarters, the competition-winning plans for the redevelopment of the Reichstag in Berlin and the British Museum in Bloomsbury.

Yet while fiercely dynamic in pursuit of his professional goals, he is personally reticent and has been described as `obsessionally controlled'. At 60 he is also old enough to be his companion's father.

To some Ms Ochoa, 37, is the most shocking woman in Spain. She is tall, blonde and vivacious, favours flatteringly short skirts and has little aversion to the limelight. Her energy and obvious media-friendly qualities launched her to stardom in 1990 when she hosted the state television show Hablamos de Sexo (Let's Talk Sex).

It is perhaps difficult in Britain to comprehend the impact of such a programme in a Spain which retains many of the characteristics of the conservative Church-dominated Franco era. In 1990 sex was a taboo subject.

But, like her American counterpart Dr Ruth, Ms Ochoa proceeded to sock it to an astonished nation. And Hablamos de Sexo was a hit.

`Sexual science to titillate the masses,' was how one Spanish journalist described it. She dealt with every practice, peccadillo or problem imaginable; prostitutes were invited into the studio to give their expert advice; naked couples were used as demonstrators.

This led to a second more luridly titled series called Red Light, and a work called The Book Of Sexuality which was serialised in a Sunday magazine.

It would be wrong, though, to see her as Spain's answer to our own resolutely downmarket Margi Clark. Joan Bakewell with added sex appeal is a better analogy.

Last year she published the latest of her dozen books on the mind and sexuality, a work with the inviting title of To Know With Pleasure. …

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