Norman Foster

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“Everything inspires me, sometimes I think I see things others don’t.”
Norman Foster

“Common Futures”, an exhibition about Norman Foster in the Telefonica Foundation

This week I visited “Common Futures”, the exhibition about Norman Foster’s work in the Telefonica Foundation in Madrid, which will be open to the public until February 4. This is an exposition of twelve recent projects that are having a dialogue with twelve other proposals from several decades before in order to highlight the continuity of Foster’s concerns and the range of his interests.

What I liked the most about “Common Futures” is that Foster himself explains to the spectator, through different videos, what inspired him in each project and why he designed the buildings the way he did. This helps us to approach the architect’s universe, making his projects and his world of creation more accessible and easier for us to understand.

I also liked very much the models that were shown at the exhibition. Even if architecture is becoming more of a digital design process, at Fosters’ studio models are still a key part of the design process. They provide a physical and tridimensional crystallization of a design; they’re a tangible step in the process of transforming an idea into a reality. To Norman, models are not simply used to see how the building will look, but they’re a way to understand how the entire architectural experience will be.

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Norman Foster, the Creator

When Norman Foster talks about architecture, he says “architecture, I guess, for me is something that moves the spirit, that really works in terms of all the senses. And that senses about the things that you can measure, that you can quantify, and, if you like, the spiritual dimension which its routed in all of the senses and which you can’t measure but you know is there, it moves you, it moves your spirit.”

Norman Foster had left impressive pieces of art all around the world. The essence of his architecture is that design can make things work better; architecture can make your life feel better. Part of his brilliance is to design a building that doesn’t show the effort behind it. Norman Foster has created a new geometry, structures inspired in nature under the philosophy of doing more with less, doing stronger structures using the less amount of resources.

“I’m fascinated by the work of artists and the relationship between space and works of art the synergy between a painting, a sculpture, a furniture, the way those come together, which is kind of an endless personal pursuit.”

Norman Foster’s buildings harmonize with the buildings surrounding them and, at the same time, they bring something new. “I believe that the infrastructure of spaces connections, the public domain, the kind of urban glue that binds the buildings together is more important than any one building.”

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Norman Foster, the Pioneer

“As a team, we’ve reinvented the genre, we’ve reinvented the airport” (among others, Beijing’s airport), “we’ve reinvented the nature of the high-rise building” (Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank), “we’ve reinvented the relationship of the old and new” (Carré d’Art, in Nimes) “in terms of, you know, how you create a new life cycle for a historic building keeping the best of its identity from the past. And, perhaps, all of this is, in one way or another, reinvent ourselves in terms of changing the circumstances, all from experience or knowledge or feeding off new challenges.”

Norman Foster’s projects are sustainable. He goes even further by designing a carbon-free, sustainable, and self-sufficient city: Masdar, in Abu Dhabi.

“If we achieve a zero waste, zero carbon, then, that will be a kind of miracle. The tragedy is that given the urgency of the situation, given what is at stake –which is literally our survival as a species–, The thing that I find inexplicable is that there is only one Masdar. You know, if there were twenty urban experiments in terms of twenty cities happening around the planet now, one will be very, very, critical and say ‘Why only twenty?’ That is the shocking thing; that is unbelievable. The big issues, in terms of coupling all this together, can only be a political initiative. And I think that, probably, it will have to get almost to the point of absolute desperation before everybody is forced to get that act together. And then, the agonizing question will be ‘Did everybody wake up in time or did they wake up too late?’”

The Workshop about Norman Foster´s Work

I’ll first visit the exhibition with my daughters and friends, and I will ask them what they think about it. After that, we will reflect about how cities should be in the future. I will dedicate this week’s workshop to invent and draw a city as it could be in the future.

I’ll also use the occasion to make them realize that Norman Foster is a brave man with innovating ideas, a pioneer in experimenting and compromising with the future. He tries to contribute with the creation of a better future for the whole world by improving life in the cities through new technologies, means, and forward-looking materials.

What do you think about all this? Are we waking up and beginning to walk down the path of consciousness regarding our planet’s needs for a sustainable development? How can we cover the present’s needs without compromising the future generations’ ones?

Photography: Oscar Rivilla
Conceptual design: Carolina Verd
Fashion by Finally:
Black-and-white stripes corset by Antonio García
Black trousers by Antonio García
Black sandals by Stuart Weitzman