Serial Healing: the Design of Objects and the Design of Systems


The demanding rigour and visual restraint of Foster’s architecture has often prompted the practice to design non-proprietary systems and products; and in some cases this attention to detail has been channelled through commissions for serial objects or prototypes. Spreading the modern creed of healing through design, the firm has been true to the modern motto that extends the responsibility of the architect ‘from the handle to the city’. After the pioneer office furniture that gave rise to the Nomos system in 1985, Foster undertook in the 1990’s a large number of industrial design jobs. From the sober urban furniture for Decaux to the lyrical door handle for Fusital, the designs included a seaworthy motor yacht and a prototype solar vehicle for Kew Gardens, sponsored by Foster’s old friends and clients, the Sainsburys; and for another client and friend, the mayor of Nîmes, Foster also developed a new identity for his Cacharel shops (an involvement with retail that went further than the previous London shops for Joseph, Katharine Hamnett and Esprit). But perhaps the most successful design was the most architectural in purpose and scale, a collection of wise and witty steel umbrellas, painted in the corporate colours, for the petrol stations of the Spanish oil company Repsol...[+]

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