A visionary Humanist


Luis Fernández-Galiano 

Stunned by the colossal scale and technical audacity of so many of his buildings, we often forget to which extent the work of Norman Foster speaks of social utopia and aesthetic adventure. From his earliest projects, such as the one carried out for the Norwegian shipping company Fred Olsen in the London Docks, which brought blue and white-collar workers together in a single space delimited by a terse glass facade that was at once a constructional feat and a statement of artistic intentions, the British architect’s career has tried to reconcile democratic values and technological innovation with visual refinement.

Fruits of this endeavor are masterworks like the offices of Willis Faber & Dumas, the monumental and light Sainsbury Center or the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank, which changed the way skyscrapers are built just as his Stansted Airport would irreversibly transform air terminals or his Carré d’Art in Nîmes would alter the manner in which the dialogue between heritage and contemporary construction is tackled. Eventually it was Foster himself who made the next step: in skyscrapers, with exemplary buildings like the Commerzbank of Frankfurt or the Swiss Re in London; in airports, with titanic works like the Chek Lap Kok terminal on an artificial island in Hong Kong or the new airport of Beijing which was the gate of the Olympic Games; and in interventions on historic architectures, with works such as that carried out in the British Museum or the extraordinary transformation of the Reichstag in Berlin...

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