Towards the Millennium: London at Last, the Home Projects


Before 1996, Foster’s symbolic presence in London had been limited: a luminous gap in the Royal Academy and a clearing job at the British Museum. Most of the other works were offices of varying quality: from the laconic elegance of his own office, the ITN headquarters or the Imperial College laboratories, through the plain projects for 1 London Wall, Tower Place and Holborn Place, and down to the mediocre Canary Wharf DS-2. But in that year the practice won four competitions in the emblematic heart of London: World Squares, the remodelling of the centre of the city, including Trafalgar Square; the Millennium Bridge, a pedestrian link across the Thames between St Paul’s and the new Tate Gallery; the remodelling of Wembley Stadium; and a tower on the City site of the IRA destroyed Baltic Exchange, for which two schemes were developed – a softly curved double topped tower in 1996 for Kvaerner, and a futuristic gherkin in 1999 for Swiss Reinsurance. The same visionary language was used for a project of 1999, the new GLA headquarters for the elected chamber and mayor of London, which was designed as a flattened glass bubble. Assured the success of the silent squares and bridge, the future fortune of Foster rides on the loud wager of the gherkin and bubble...[+]

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