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Norman Foster, Baron Foster of Thames Bank

Related subjects Architecture

Norman Foster

Personal information
Name Norman Foster
Nationality Flag of the United Kingdom British
Birth date June 1, 1935 (1935-06-01)
Birth place Flag of England Stockport, Greater Manchester, England
Practice name Foster and Partners
Significant buildings 30 St Mary Axe, London

Willis Faber and Dumas Headquarters, Ipswich
Wembley Stadium

Significant projects American Hangar at the Imperial War Museum Duxford
Awards and prizes Stirling Prize, Pritzker Architecture Prize, Minerva Medal
The restored Reichstag in Berlin, housing the German parliament. The dome was built by Foster's redesign.
The restored Reichstag in Berlin, housing the German parliament. The dome was built by Foster's redesign.
The Hearst Tower in New York City.
The Hearst Tower in New York City.
The Expo MRT Station, part of the Mass Rapid Transit system in Singapore.
The Expo MRT Station, part of the Mass Rapid Transit system in Singapore.
View of 30 St Mary Axe from street level. The building serves as the London headquarters for Swiss Re and is informally known as "The Gherkin".
View of 30 St Mary Axe from street level. The building serves as the London headquarters for Swiss Re and is informally known as " The Gherkin".
The Millau Viaduct, opened 2004
The Millau Viaduct, opened 2004
The Willis Faber and Dumas Headquarters in Ipswich was one of Foster's earliest commissions after founding Foster Associates.
The Willis Faber and Dumas Headquarters in Ipswich was one of Foster's earliest commissions after founding Foster Associates.

Norman Robert Foster, Baron Foster of Thames Bank, OM, FRIBA, RDI, (born 1 June 1935) is one of the leading British architects of the United Kingdom and in the world.


Foster was born in Reddish, Stockport, England, to a working-class family. He was naturally gifted and performed well at school and took an interest in architecture, particularly in the works of Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier.

Leaving school at 16, he worked in the Manchester City Treasurer's office before joining National Service in the Royal Air Force. After he was discharged, in 1956 Foster attended the University of Manchester's School of Architecture and City Planning (graduating in 1961). Later, he won the Henry Fellowship to the Yale School of Architecture, where he met former business partner Richard Rogers and earned his Master's degree. He then travelled in America for a year, returning to the UK in 1962 where he set up an architectural practice as Team 4 with Rogers and their respective wives Wendy Cheesman and Sue Rogers. They quickly earned a reputation for high-tech industrial design.

Foster and Partners

After Team 4 went their separate ways, in 1967 Foster and Wendy Cheeseman founded Foster Associates, which later became Foster and Partners. 1968 saw the beginning of a long period of collaboration with American architect Richard Buckminster Fuller, which continued until Fuller's death in 1983, on several projects that became catalysts in the development of an environmentally sensitive approach to design - including the Samuel Beckett Theatre project.

Foster Associates' breakthrough building in the UK was the Willis Faber & Dumas headquarters in Ipswich, from 1974. The client was a family firm insurance company which wanted to restore a sense of community to the workplace. Foster created open-plan office floors long before open-plan became the norm. In a town not over-endowed with public facilities, the roof gardens, 25m swimming pool and gymnasium greatly enhance the quality of life of the company's 1200 employees. The building is wrapped in a full-height glass facade which moulds itself to the medieval street plan and contributes real drama, subtly shifting from opaque, reflective black to a glowing backlit transparency as the sun sets. The building is now Grade One Listed.

Present day

Today, Foster and Partners work with its engineering collaborators to integrate complex computer systems with the most basic physical laws, such as convection. The approach creates intelligent, efficient structures like the Swiss Re London headquarters at 30 St Mary Axe, nicknamed "The Gherkin", whose complex facade lets in air for passive cooling and then vents it as it warms and rises.

Foster's earlier designs reflected a sophisticated, machine-influenced high-tech vision. His style has since evolved into a more sublime, sharp-edged modernity.

Foster is currently involved in a dispute with the Couper Collection, a floating art museum near his London offices, regarding his plans to redevelop the area and force removal of the museum's barges.

Ken Shuttleworth, a senior project architect at Foster and Partners, recently left the firm to set up his own architectural practice, MAKE Architects. Shuttleworth is reported to have been the driving force behind the practice in recent years having designed some of the firm's most prominent projects in the past few years, including London City Hall and 30 St Mary Axe.

In January 2007, The Sunday Times reported that Foster had called in Catalyst, a corporate finance house, to find buyers for Foster and Partners. Foster does not intend to retire, but sell out his 85%+ holding in the company valued at £300M to £500M.


Foster was knighted in 1990 and appointed to the Order of Merit in 1997. In 1999, he was created a life peer, as Baron Foster of Thames Bank, of Reddish in the County of Greater Manchester. He is a cross-bencher.

He is the second British architect to win the Stirling Prize twice: the first for the American Hangar at the Imperial War Museum Duxford in 1998, and the second for 30 St Mary Axe in 2004. In consideration of his whole portfolio, Foster was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1999. He is also a Fellow of the Chartered Society of Designers and winner of the Minerva Medal, the Society's highest award.

In Germany Lord Foster received the Order Pour le Mérite.

Most recently, in September of 2007, Foster was awarded the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, the largest architectural award in the world, for the Petronas University of Technology, Bandar Seri in Iskandar, Malaysia.

Personal life

Foster married business partner Wendy Cheeseman. She died of cancer in 1989, leaving him with four sons.

For a while he was linked with BBC newsreader Anna Ford, but he married Indian-born Begum Sabiha Rumani Malik who became his second wife. They met when Sabiha was married to Andrew Knight, then Chairman of News International plc.

Foster and Sabiha divorced in 1998, and Foster is presently married to Elena Foster, Chairman of the Tate International Council, and founder of Ivory Press. Lady Foster of Thames Bank (the former Prof. Dr. Elena Ochoa), is a graduate of University of Madrid and former journalist, who used to lecture at University of Cambridge and is an expert on Alzheimer's disease. In Spain Miss Ochoa is better known as "La doctora del sexo" after she presented the prime-time TV programme "Hablemos de Sexo" ("Let's Talk About Sex"), in 1990. T

A qualified pilot, Foster flies his own private jet and helicopter between his home above the London offices of Foster and Partners, as well to his homes in France and Switzerland.


Son: Jay Foster

Daughter: Paola Foster

Son: Eduardo Foster

Step Daughter: Amaryllis Knight

Step Daughter: Afsaneh Knight

Selected projects

Foster has established an extremely prolific career in the span of four decades. The following are some of his major constructions:

Proposed or under construction

Torre Caja Madrid (Madrid) under construction (September 2007).
Torre Caja Madrid (Madrid) under construction (September 2007).
  • Torre Caja Madrid, Madrid, Spain (2004-2008)
  • Tower, Cork, Republic of Ireland, (2008-2011)
  • Culture and Leisure Centre, Ciudad del Motor de Aragón , Alcañiz, Spain (2007) (competition won)
  • Tivoli Hotel, Copenhagen, Denmark (2010) (competition won)
  • Museum of Aviation, Getafe, Spain (currently in design phase)
  • 200 Greenwich Street, Tower 2 of the planned reconstruction of the World Trade Centre in New York City, United States (currently in design phase)
  • Reconstruction of New Holland Island, Saint Petersburg, Russia (ongoing)
  • Russia Tower, Moscow, Russia (2007 – 2011)
  • U2 Tower, Dublin, Ireland (2008-2011) (competition won)
  • Spinningfield Square, Manchester, England (2005 – 2010)
  • Dallas Centre for the Performing Arts, Dallas, United States (2009)
  • The Bow, Calgary, Canada (2009)
  • The Troika, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (2004 – 2009)
  • International Terminal, Beijing Capital International Airport, Beijing, China (2007)
  • New Elephant House, Copenhagen Zoo, Copenhagen, Denmark (2007)
  • Queen's Dock, Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, Glasgow, Scotland (2004 – 2007)
  • Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, Middlesex Guildhall, London, United Kingdom (2009)
  • Khan Shatyry in Astana, Kazakhstan.
  • Proposed new World Trade Centre.
  • Masdar Initiative master plan , Abu Dhabi (announced 2007)
  • Zero carbon, zero waste city in Abu Dhabi, a project within the Masdar Initiative (announced 2007)
  • New Yale School of Management campus, New Haven, CT (announced September 4, 2007)
  • Camp Nou stadium, Barcelona, Spain (announced September 18, 2007)
  • Crystal Island, Moscow, Russia


Reichstag dome at night
Reichstag dome at night
Dresden Hauptbahnhof roof and cupola
Dresden Hauptbahnhof roof and cupola
Metropolitan Building in Warsaw
Metropolitan Building in Warsaw
  • Thomas Deacon Academy (2005-2007)
  • The Willis Building, City of London, United Kingdom (2004-2007)
  • Wembley Stadium, London, United Kingdom (2002 – 2007)
  • Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, Astana, Kazakhstan (2006)
  • Faculty of Pharmacy Building at the University of Toronto, Canada (2006)
  • Hearst Tower, New York City, United States (2006)
  • Dresden Hauptbahnhof reconstruction, Dresden, Germany (2002 – 2006)
  • Deutsche Bank Place, Sydney, Australia (the first Sir Norman Foster building in the Southern Hemisphere) (2005)
  • The Philological Library at the Free University of Berlin, Germany (2005)
  • National Police Memorial, The Mall, London, United Kingdom (2005)
  • 40 luxury apartments, St. Moritz, Switzerland (2005)
  • Millau Viaduct, Gorge du Tarn, France (1993 – 2005)
  • Tanaka Business School, Imperial College London (2004)
  • McLaren Technology Centre, Woking, United Kingdom (2004)
  • The Sage Gateshead, Gateshead, England (2004)
  • 30 St Mary Axe, Swiss Re London headquarters, London, United Kingdom (1997 – 2004)
  • Metro of Bilbao, Spain (1988 – 1995, 1992 – 2004)
  • Universiti Teknologi Petronas main campus, Malaysia (2003)
  • Clark Centre, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA (2003)
  • HSBC Tower, London (2002)
  • The Metropolitan Building in Warsaw (1997-2003)
  • Lionel Robbins Building renovation, British Library of Political and Economic Science, London School of Economics, London, United Kingdom (1999 – 2001)
  • J Sainsbury headquarters, Holborn Circus, London (2001)
  • La Poterie metro station, Rennes, France (2001)
  • Al Faisaliah Centre, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (2001)
  • Expo MRT Station, Singapore (2001)
  • Centre for Clinical Science Research, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA (2000)
  • Millennium Bridge, London, United Kingdom (1996 – 2000)
  • Greater London Authority Building (London City Hall), London, United Kingdom (2000)
  • Reichstag restoration, Berlin, Germany (1999)
  • Department of Economics, Manor Road Building, University of Oxford, England (1999)
  • Redevelopment of the Great Court of the British Museum, London, United Kingdom (1999)
  • Hong Kong International Airport, Chek Lap Kok, Hong Kong, China (1992 – 1998)
  • Commerzbank Tower, Frankfurt, Germany (1991 – 1997)
  • The Clyde Auditorium, part of the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre in Glasgow, Scotland (1995-1997)
  • Law Faculty, Sidgewick Site, University of Cambridge (1995)
  • Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraksa (1994)
  • Lycée Albert Camus, Fréjus, France (1993)
  • Kings Norton Library, Cranfield University (1993)
  • Carré d'Art, Nîmes, France (1984 – 1993)
  • Torre de Collserola, Barcelona, Spain (1992)
  • Terminal building at Stansted Airport, London, United Kingdom (1981 – 1991)
  • HSBC headquarters building, Hong Kong (1979 – 1986)
  • Renault Distribution Centre, Swindon, United Kingdom (1983)
  • Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, England (1974 – 1978 )
  • Willis Faber and Dumas Headquarters, Ipswich, England (1971 – 1975 )
  • IBM Pilot Head Office, Cosham, Portsmouth, England (1970 – 1971)

Non-architectural projects

Foster's other design work has included the Nomos desk system for Italian manufacturer Tecno, and the motor yacht Izanami (later Ronin) for Lürssen Yachts.

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