Birthday: June 1, 1935
Age: 85 Years, 85 Year Old Males
Sun Sign: Gemini
Also Known As: Norman Robert Foster, Baron Foster of Thames Bank
Born in: Stockport, Cheshire, England
Famous as: Architect
Spouse/Ex-: Elena Ochoa Foster, Sabiha Rumani Malik, Wendy Cheesman
father: Robert Foster
mother: Lilian Smith
children: Cal Foster, Eduardo Foster, Jay Foster, Paola Foster, Ti Foster
City: Stockport, England
Founder/Co-Founder: Foster and Partners
education: 1961 - University of Manchester, 1962 - Yale School of Architecture, Burnage Academy for Boys
Who is Norman Foster?
Norman Robert Foster often referred to as the ‘hero of high-tech’ is one of the most distinguished British architects. Foster is the founder and chairman of the British international company for architecture and integrated design, the ‘Foster + Partners’, well-known for its high-tech designs. The company’s project offices are spread around twenty nations with a wide array of works encompassing public infrastructures, civic buildings, urban master plans, offices, product designs and private residences. The company has cemented its position internationally with the body of work it successfully executed over the last four decades. Some of its notable commissions are ‘Willis Faber and Dumas Headquarters’ in Ipswich, UK; ‘HSBC Main Building’ in Hong Kong; ‘Joslyn Art Museum’ in Omaha, United States; ‘Faculty of Law’ in Cambridge; ‘Hong Kong International Airport’ in Chek Lap Kok, Hong Kong; Reichstag restoration in Berlin, Germany and ‘Millennium Bridge’ in London, UK. Foster remained a ‘Council Member’ of ‘Royal College of Art’ and also served as Vice-President in London’s ‘Architectural Association’. He received ‘Pritzker Architecture Prize’ in 1999, generally referred as ‘Nobel Prize’ in the field of architecture. He is also the recipient of the ‘Royal Gold Medal for Architecture’ (1983); the ‘Gold Medal of the French Academy of Architecture’ (1991); the ‘AIA Gold Medal’ (1994) and the ‘Prince of Asturias Award’ (2009) in Arts section. He was conferred Knighthood in 1990 and was bestowed a ‘Life Peerage’ in 1999, thus becoming ‘The Lord Foster of Thames Bank’.
Childhood & Early Life
He was born on June 1, 1935, in Reddish, Stockport, Cheshire to Robert Foster and Lilian Smith. The family shifted to Levenshulme, Manchester, soon after he was born.
His father served the ‘Metropolitan-Vickers’, a heavy electrical engineering company, at Trafford Park. It is from this place that his enthusiasm in engineering and designing grew, which, according to him inspired him to take up a career in architecture and design.
He studied in Burnage at the ‘Burnage Grammar School for Boys’.
In 1951, persuaded by his father, he sat for and cleared the ‘Manchester Town Hall's’ trainee scheme entrance examination and started working at the Treasurer’s Department of Manchester City Treasurer's office as an officer.
As his interest always lay in architecture, the idea of pursuing an architectural career fueled up again when he heard that son of one of his colleagues, Mr. Cobb, was studying the subject.
After working in the Treasurer’s Department, he served the ‘Royal Air Force’ till 1953 completing his ‘National Service’.
Thereafter Foster served as a contract manager of ‘John Bearshaw and Partners’ as his assistant. He was later promoted to the drawing department of the architectural practice after John Bearshaw saw the impressive drawings made by him.
He earned a seat at the ‘University of Manchester School of Architecture and City Planning’ in 1956. As he did not receive a maintenance grant, he took up odd jobs like working in a bakery, as a salesman of ice-cream and also as a bouncer at a night club to finance his studies. In 1961 he completed his graduation.
He was inspired by the works of Oscar Niemeyer, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright.
He earned the ‘Henry Fellowship’ to the ‘Yale School of Architecture’ in New Haven, Connecticut from where he completed his master degree in architecture. There he met Richard Rogers.
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In 1963 he along with Su Brumwell, Wendy Cheesman and Richard Rogers founded an architectural practice called the ‘Team 4’ which soon became reputed for its high-tech architectural designs.
When ‘Team 4’ was dissolved in 1967, Foster and his wife Wendy Cheesman set up ‘Foster Associates’ the same year in London, which was re-christened as ‘Foster + Partners’ in the 1990s.
‘Foster Associates’ began working on huge public structures, industrial buildings, projects on transportation and private houses. In 1968, the company started collaborating with Richard Buckminster Fuller, an American architect that continued till 1983.
Though his company worked on a couple of projects, the real breakthrough project of ‘Foster Associates’ was the ‘Willis Faber and Dumas Headquarters’ (1971–1975) in Ipswich, UK. The design of the building was inspired from Manchester’s ‘Daily Express Building’.
His next major project was a public art gallery and museum, the ‘Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts’ (1974–1978) at the ‘University of East Anglia’ in Norwich, UK. In December 2012, it was enlisted as a ‘Grade II building'.
As his reputation grew, he started getting major international commissions from around the continents over the decades. Some of the notable ones are ‘HSBC Main Building’ (1979–1986) in Hong Kong; ‘Hong Kong International Airport’ (1992–1998) in Chek Lap Kok, Hong Kong; ‘Joslyn Art Museum’ (1994) in Omaha United States; ‘Reichstag’ restoration (1999) in Berlin, Germany; ‘Millau Viaduct’ (2004) near Millau in Southern France; ‘Supreme Court Building’ (2005) in Singapore and International Terminal of the ‘Beijing Capital International Airport’ (2007) in China.
He continued to take on national assignments along with the international ones. His notable commissions in the UK include ‘London Stansted Airport’s’ ‘Terminal Building’ (1981-91); ‘Faculty of Law’ in Cambridge (1995); ‘National Sea Life Centre’ (1996) in Birmingham; ‘Millennium Bridge’ (1996 – 2000) in London; ‘National Police Memorial’ (2005) in The Mall, London; ‘Wembley Stadium’ (2002 – 2007) in London and ‘The Willis Building’ (2004 – 2007) in City of London.
His layout of the ‘London Stansted Airport’s’ ‘Terminal Building’ that he designed in 1990 fetched him the ‘Mies van der Rohe Award’ or the ‘European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture’.
His upcoming and proposed projects and those under process are spread all over the world. These include ‘New Mexico City International Airport’ in Mexico City, Mexico; ‘Crystal Island’ in Moscow, Russia; ‘Apple Campus’ in Cupertino, California; ‘APIIC Tower’ in Hyderabad, India and ‘Comcast Innovation and Technology Center’ in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States.
The full height glass façade building of ‘Willis Faber and Dumas Headquarters’ in Ipswich, UK that has open plan office floors (an aspect that was still new at that time), roof gardens, gymnasium and swimming pool not only uplifted the design of the site but also increased the quality of life of the employees. It is presently listed as a ‘Grade II building'.
‘Hong Kong International Airport’ (1992–1998) in Chek Lap Kok, Hong Kong, world’s largest airport, which was opened on July 6, 1998, remains his major career achievement. The colossal terminal is of eight storeys with a lightweight steel roof of forty-five acres and a glass enclosed space of six million square feet. It is so huge that it can be seen from space.
Foster along with Michel Virlogeux designed ‘Millau Viaduct’, the world’s tallest bridge situated near Millau in Southern France, which was opened on December 16, 2004.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1964, he married architect Wendy Cheesman, who was one of the founding members of ‘Team 4’ and later established ‘Foster Associates’ with him in 1967. She succumbed to cancer in 1989. He has four sons from her.
He married Sabiha Rumani Malik in 1991 but they eventually divorced in 1995.
His present wife Elena Ochoa Foster, whom he married in 1996, is a psychopathologist.