At Home in the World; Norman Foster Pairs Dynamic Innovation with Respect for History. No Wonder Everyone Wants a Piece of Him

By Pepper, Tara; Nemtsova, Anna | Newsweek International, May 15, 2006 | Go to article overview

At Home in the World; Norman Foster Pairs Dynamic Innovation with Respect for History. No Wonder Everyone Wants a Piece of Him


Pepper, Tara, Nemtsova, Anna, Newsweek International


Byline: Tara Pepper with Anna Nemtsova

With more than 30 new buildings in varying stages of construction around the world, it's surprising that the jet-setting British architect Norman Foster ever touches down. And the stream of high-profile commissions just keeps coming. Most recently, Foster announced a redevelopment of the Rossiya Hotel off Moscow's Red Square; he's also giving the Russian capital a striking skyscraper, City Towers, which will be the tallest in Europe. "Moscow has, as a society, been through a kind of long, gray past of relative inactivity," he says. "But there's a tremendous energy there right now."

Young new architects may be all the rage, but developing cities and corporations eager to mark themselves as part of the global elite consistently turn to Foster to help them celebrate their growing dynamism. From Hong Kong's HSBC headquarters to London's arresting Swiss Re building, Foster has time and again created structures that project a breathtaking optimism and faith in technology and the future. "He's the ultimate architectural technocrat," says London-based critic Jay Merrick. "He creates icons," says Marcial Echenique, head of the University of Cambridge Architecture Department. "His work is very elegant. Nothing can be taken out and nothing can be added. It's absolutely exact."

Over three decades of practice, Lord Foster has specialized in reinventing historical gems, from the British Museum to Dresden's cavernous 19th-century train station. Once, additions to historic buildings were a pastiche of the original style. Foster showed it was possible to work with the traditional fabric and create a sensitive, contemporary addition--most recently with New York's Hearst tower, which rises elegantly from the original art-deco structure. With Britain's Stansted Airport he transformed the traditional idea of a terminal, moving the machinery underground and opening up the whole structure with a vast, lightweight roof. …

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