The Experience of Team 4: Rehearsing Themes of a Career



Back from the USA in 1963, Norman Foster joined Richard Rogers, Su Rogers and Wendy Cheesman to create Team 4, a practice that lasted until 1967, when Foster and Rogers moved apart to pursue their own independent careers. Richard Rogers had been a friend of the sisters Georgie and Wendy Cheesman since they were at art school in Epsom in 1953, and they all decided to become architects; in fact, Georgie was his girlfriend before he met Su, and even (as the then married Georgie Wolton) belonged briefly to Team 4 – during which time she was the only registered architect of the partnership. Norman also fell for the brilliant, gentle and rebellious Cheesman sisters, and after moving into Wendy’s flat in Hampstead Hill Gardens –whose front part served as offices for the young practice – he married her in 1964. The first clients of Team 4 were Su Rogers’s parents, Marcus and Rene Brumwell, who presented them with several commissions in Cornwall: a house and a refuge on both sides of a creek, their favourite sailing spot, and then the project of a small housing development on the same site. Friend of painters like Ben Nicholson, and an art collector himself, the advertising executive Marcus Brumwell was a relaxed patron, ready to indulge the experiments of the inexperienced but talented and hardworking team, soon reinforced with the advice of the engineer Tony Hunt, who would act as a consultant in all the early works. After struggling with less complacent clients (among which Wates Homes, for whom they developed a project never to be built) the first significant opportunity arrived with the commission of an electronics factory for Reliance Controls, built as a lightweight shed on a serviced slab, and which would become a dress rehearsal for the main themes of Foster’s independent career, already hinted at in the tiny retreat in Cornwall, but fully blossomed in this taut building in Swindon. In spite of the critical success of their work – soon to be followed by numerous significant awards – Team 4 did not hold together, and the two couples separated in the summer of 1967. Richard and Su Rogers worked on their own until a partnership was formed in 1971 (after winning the international competition for the Pompidou Centre in Paris) with the Italian Renzo Piano, while Norman and Wendy Foster remained as Foster Associates in the old flat in Hampstead, where they would stay for three more years developing their own independent career...[+]

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