|The Right Honourable
The Lord Foster of Thames Bank
|Born||Norman Robert Foster
1 June 1935
Stockport, Cheshire, England
|Practice||Foster + Partners|
30 St Mary Axe, London
|Projects||American Air Museum at the Imperial War Museum Duxford|
There's a snobbery at work in architecture. The subject is too often treated as a fine art, delicately wrapped in mumbo-jumbo. In reality, it's an all-embracing discipline taking in science, art, maths, engineering, climate, nature, politics, economics.
I describe the design process as like the tip of the iceberg. What you don't see is the long haul: all the endless auditing and things like that.
Joseph Bazalgette created a sewer system which he originally sized for London's needs of the time – he then doubled it to anticipate the future beyond. These are the qualities that I admire.
Surveys often show people would prefer a detached house with a lawn and driveway to an apartment. I understand this. It's not my place to presume to tell people where they can live. But perhaps that dream will simply not be possible in the future.
Google has already tested robot cars in San Francisco. If they can navigate San Francisco, they can probably manage just about anywhere.
Every time I've flown an aircraft, or visited a steelworks, or watched a panel-beater at work, I've learned something new that can be applied to buildings.
As an architect, you design for the present, with an awareness of the past, for a future which is essentially unknown.
Manhattan, one of the most moneyed spots on the planet, also has one of the greatest concentrations of people in its skyscrapers. It's also, of course, the place where every architect wants to build his tower.
Anything that reduces fuel consumption and cuts down on greenhouse gasses is good news.
You can find, occasionally, some absolutely fantastic things in hunting shops. I've got one jacket that I just happened across which is a kind of unwashed leather – completely anonymous but absolutely special.
I hope that any expansion of London will learn from the planning examples of some of its most desirable areas such as Chelsea, Notting Hill, Belgravia and Mayfair. All are characterised by high density and a generosity of green spaces.
Control is the wrong word. The practice is very much about sharing, and, in any creative practice, some individuals, whether partners or directors, are much closer to certain projects than I could ever be.
I hope that any expansion of London will learn from the planning examples of some of its most desirable areas such as Chelsea, Notting Hill, Belgravia and Mayfair. All are characterised by high density and a generosity of green spaces. They are all pedestrian-friendly with shops, entertainment, restaurants and pubs within easy walking distance.
I was born in 1935, and as far back as I can remember, I was sketching designs. My first subject was an aircraft, which I imagined myself piloting.
I love flying; I love aircraft, and you could say I've had a love affair with flight since I was a child. I travel a huge amount. I use airports, and as a pilot, I've flown in and out of airports thousands of times, so really, I have a fairly broad perspective.
I travel continuously, and I see many cities, but there is nowhere like London.
I would never wear anything with a logo. That I really find difficult. It's a frustration that I'll find a nice shirt or something and it's got 50 prints of the logo on it – why do they do this?
Since Stonehenge, architects have always been at the cutting edge of technology. And you can't separate technology from the humanistic and spiritual content of a building.
Everything we design is a response to the specific climate and culture of a particular place.
There are those airports which make you feel better, and there are those airports that, when you go there, your heart sinks: you can't wait to get out of there. They both function as airports, but it's the things that you can't measure that make them different.
A life-threatening illness or two certainly gives you an awareness of your own mortality. It heightens your sense of gratitude for things that previously, if you've not taken them for granted, you perhaps never appreciated how precious they were. That's almost a platitude, but one has to state the obvious.
When the Great Fire of London destroyed most of the medieval city in 1666, Christopher Wren was invited to design a new one. Within days, he had drawn up an elegant grid of broad boulevards leading to majestic squares, but it came to nothing – the existing landowners wanted things as they had been.
I'm not a creature of habit. I like to find things from unexpected sources.
The only honourable work my parents knew was blue-collar. But while my father Robert ran a pawnbroker's shop, and my mother was a waitress, I moved into a middle-class world with a level of security they never knew.
You cannot separate the buildings out from the infrastructure of cites and the mobility of transit.
We now think it hilarious that medieval streets were used as open sewers. Equally, our descendants will say: 'You won't believe this, but people were once allowed to hurl a couple of tons of dangerous metal around smashing into each other.'
In Britain, the idea one could go from blue-collar beginnings to the university was so far out, it was quite unthinkable. I took a variety of jobs to pay for tuition – from ice-cream salesman to night-club bouncer. Whatever earned the most money in the least time.
The most amazing lesson in aerodynamics I ever had was the day I climbed a thermal in a glider at the same time as an eagle. I witnessed, close up, effortlessness and lightness combined with strength, precision and determination.
I think cars encapsulate the history of innovation and style – it's the other side of the coin of the car being public enemy No.1.
I tend to move between turtlenecks and shirts and ties. I don't really have a uniform in the sense that some people might.