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Old March 25th, 2006, 06:19 AM   #1
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Norman Foster's Legacy

Super Size Foster Must Now Start to Think Small
21 February 2006
The Evening Standard

This looks like a Norman Foster moment. He has just completed the Hearst Tower in New York, an angular totem that is the first tall building of note for a quarter-century in the city of the skyscraper, a rare sign of life in a place that has been architecturally moribund since Philip Johnson's 'Chippendale skyscraper' in the late Seventies. In London, the latest Foster icon, Wembley Stadium, is nearing completion, if slowly - the delay reported yesterday has little to do with Foster.

Foster has reshaped the capital's most famous square and most famous museum, created its most famous tower and the seat of its government, and designed a Thames bridge. It only remains for him to remodel St Paul's cathedral and he will have completed the full set of urban landmarks.

He is in demand as a maker of defining contemporary monuments in cities as diverse as Beijing, Florence and St Moritz, not to mention a commission to design a 62-metre-high 'Peace Pyramid', a 'global centre for religious understanding, the renunciation of violence and the promotion of faith and human equality', commissioned by the president of Kazakhstan.

He is roofing over the courtyard of the venerable Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC with a more flamboyant version of the glass roof he gave the British Museum, and has just won the commission to master- plan a district of St Petersburg. Back in New York, he is working on a tower on the site of Ground Zero.

Yet at the same time, Norman Foster's practice is reported to be a business at a crossroads. Its profits have dropped in successive years, becoming a loss in the year ending 2004, the last year for which they are available. There have been cutbacks on takeaway meals and taxis for staff working late at his offices.

It is also reported that he is being upstaged by Make, the freewheeling new practice formed by Ken Shuttleworth, the renegade ex-partner of Foster's more straightlaced company. Foster, recently so ubiquitous in London's cultural and commercial architecture, is suffering a reaction, and clients and developers are hungry for new people.

Given the roll-call of foreign capitals still clamouring for Foster, decline is a relative concept. Foster's office say that their next set of accounts will look much healthier, but it is time to ask where Britain's most successful and acclaimed architect could and should go next.

Foster himself is 70, an age at which many would be well and truly retired, but not famous architects. Philip Johnson had another 25 years to go at this age; Frank Lloyd Wright was entering the most prolific period of his career, which included the New York Guggenheim. Frank Gehry, about to turn 77, is not showing much sign of letting up.

Foster's practice now employs 650, a colossal number compared with the 20-odd that leading architects like Sir Denys Lasdun or Sir James Stirling used to have in their offices. Such vast organisations tend to acquire a momentum of their own, requiring more and more work to feed themselves, which is difficult to reconcile with continuous artistic renewal. Tension can build up between the corporate entity and individual expression.

It is perhaps for this reason that the work Foster's now produces divides into three distinctly different kinds. There are the singular landmarks, such as the Hearst Tower and Beijing Airport, currently a site so vast and dusty that you can't see from one end to the other. Wembley Stadium, albeit designed in partnership with the stadium specialists HOK Sport, is another. These are the latest in the stately progression of memorable buildings that have made Foster's name.

Then there are designs for what might be called a hyper-luxurious niche, where the Foster name carries a cachet, like Cartier or Rolex. Such projects include his new apartment building in St Moritz, the Yacht Club de Monaco, a hotel planned for the Aldwych, and an impressive yacht for a private client. In Zurich, Foster and Partners are 'injecting renewed grandeur to the New Dolder Grand Hotel, reinstating its unrivalled reign over the international luxury hospitality industry'. There are also more everyday works, such as towers in Amsterdam, Sydney, Kuala Lumpur and Vancouver, and a marina in Gibraltar where the Foster style is applied to millions of square feet of commercial or residential space.

For the final third, Foster and Partners are also designing a series of schools in places such as (in sharp contrast with Monaco) Folkestone. The company seems to be becoming a federation of several practices, one operating on the frictionless planet of the super-glamorous, full of yachts and skis and unified by Foster's aura of prestige, another serving snotty-nosed kids on the English south coast.

While this could be an effective way of reconciling the atelier of the master and a giant business, its outlying outposts require greater freedom. The practice's weaker works tend to be those which originate from the periphery of the Foster galaxy. They're the more humdrum projects, whose worker-citizens seem constrained to conform to the Foster look, with insufficient access to the Foster genius.

That genius now needs to work hard to avoid the self-repetition that can afflict famous and established architects, just as it can musicians, artists and film-makers. Over the past few years Foster has addressed accusations that his work was austere with ever-more extravagant shapes and, even, colours. Now a lot of other people, including Make, are playing the same game, and a predictable swing back to austerity is on the way.

Simply to bring back the right-angles, however, would be a bit shallow. In his best work Foster has always had an ability to think through a question from the bottom up, and come up with an answer that no one else could have produced. This is what he must continue to do, if he is to prove the critics wrong.

To achieve this, here's a suggestion: what if the Foster practice were to reduce in size dramatically? What if its many provinces were allowed to declare independence, and go their own way? What if Foster himself presided over a studio big enough to design large buildings, but small enough to ensure that they all lived up to the Foster name?
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Old April 6th, 2006, 05:23 PM   #2
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Inimitable downtown:
Cultural, environmental sensitivities guide Jameson House design

Vancouver Sun
1 April 2006

Jameson House promises to be a high-rise condominium the likes of which Vancouver has never seen before.

It is being designed by architects from the prestigious London-based firm of Foster and Partners, which is recognized around the world for designing environmentally friendly buildings -- many of which are considered landmarks.

According to an article in Dwell magazine (Sept. 2005) principal architect Norman Foster has "arguably made the biggest architectural mark since Sir Christopher Wren" on the British capital.

Some of London's most noticeable projects by Foster and his team include the arch of the new Wembley Stadium, the Swiss Re headquarter, London's city hall, the Canary Wharf underground station, the faculty of law at the University of Cambridge and the transformation of Trafalgar Square -- where closure of the north side of the square to traffic has brought about the creation of a new public terrace.

Besides Britain, the firm's work can also be found in Scandinavia, The United States, Japan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Australia and China.

In China, members of the practice are currently designing the new terminal at Beijing International Airport, which will become the most advanced technical and environmental airport ever built.

The firm has won more than 300 awards of excellence and Foster himself is the recipient of architecture's highest honour - the Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate in 1999.

So, what brings such a prestigious firm to Canada for the first time? The answer is the building of a green tower in downtown Vancouver that will combine heritage preservation.

The mixed-used residential proposal was first submitted to the city's planning department in the fall of 2005 and in one of the quickest design acceptance decisions by the city for a project this size received the go-ahead this week.

The plan calls for a structure that will generate some of its own power, and have the city's first water recycling system in a high-rise tower. The aerodynamically shaped building is also being designed to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) gold standards. The shape of the building takes advantage of local winds for natural ventilation and angled to get the maximum heat and cooling from the sun and shade.

The plan also calls for the full restoration of the heritage A-listed Ceperley Rounsfell building and the retention of the B-listed 1929 Chamber of Mines.

In what will be an engineering feat, the Ceperley building will be suspended at one point during construction to allow the building of an underground parking lot in the tight city block space.

The architects also made efforts to ensure the two-storey high heritage buildings would not be dwarfed by the office/condo tower by the lower building, which is primarily office space, having a setback.

"Vancouver is ready for a legacy and they wanted to associate their building with being a landmark for the city," says marketing spokesman Bob Rennie. "With Jameson House the developer is keeping the heritage retail in the lower part [providing new office space] and we are selling floors 14 to 37 as condos."

Rennie says the Foster group was the obvious choice to develop what promises to become a symbol of place for the city because of its past work blending important heritage buildings with contemporary architecture. For instance, the Great Court at the British Museum and the Reichstag (now German parliament) in Berlin are both good examples of the design team's interventions in historical buildings.

"There's a precision that goes into a Foster building and they [the developers] wanted to bring that precision to Vancouver . . . from sustainability to achieving maximum views to achieving a cost efficiency," says Rennie.

Jameson House won't be opening its doors for occupancy until 2008, but Rennie says it may be earlier.

"Construction starts in September and normally it's a 20-month period, but they are saying 26 months, so it [occupancy] could be earlier. They don't want to make false predictions [hence the conservative occupancy date]," says Rennie, adding the total design from the exterior to the interior is what stands out.

"Not one corner has been overlooked. There's a real balance to the building. They wanted to do something that was completely different than what has been done before and there is an absolute difference," says Rennie.

The sleek, contemporary and seamless bathrooms, in particular stand out as being unusual. As the press kits states, "the design of the bathroom is so pure it practically disappears." The built-in vanity wall, concealing large cabinets, are behind mirrors, that open easily to the touch. Below the mirror buyers have a choice of either a glass or stone finish that illuminates the shelf countertop that runs the entire length of the bathroom. There is an under-mount tub with matching stone deck to the floor and a separate frameless glass walk-in shower with a stainless steel floor.

Other design highlights include overheight, nine-foot ceilings, imported Italian travertine "osso" stone or wide-plank oak flooring throughout the living spaces (the bedrooms will have high quality carpeting).

The kitchen cabinets, also designed by Foster's team, comes in three finishes -- a polished white glass finish, dark charcoal or a warm oak. In some suites the kitchens will feature a glass-topped, cantilevered island countertop that can be lowered or raised for bar seating or dining.

Amenities include 24-hour concierge service, a video entry system that allows for the screening and identification of guests, restricted floor access for residential elevators, membership to nearby Terminal City Club and a media room, large boardroom and strata meeting room will also be available at Jameson House for residents.

Jameson House
Presentation Centre: 830 West Pender, Vancouver
Hours: Noon - 5 p.m., Saturday - Sunday
Telephone: 604-339-0707
Web: jamesonfoster.com
Project size: 131 high-rise homes
Residence size: 600 sq. ft. - 3,550 sq. ft.
Prices: $600,000 - $2.5 million
Developer: Jameson Development Corp.
Architect: Foster and Partners
Interior design: Foster and Partners
Tentative occupancy: Summer, 2008


European high style will surround buyers of the luxury condominiums at Jameson House - the first Canadian project by the internationally respected, London-based architectural firm Foster and Partners.

The firm is also responsible for the interior work, like creating the sleek white kitchen, above. It features a line of kitchen cabinetry called "Place" by Foster and Partners for Dada, Italy. The kitchen comes in three finishes, with an island in some of the suites. (The islands are multi-functional and have a cantilevered top that can be adjusted to work either at the bar or dining level). The kitchen colour choice shown here is "cool white" in polished white glass with a travertine stone floor. The cabinets feature tilt-up storage and a custom stainless-steel workplace. The natural-gas cooktop also has a high-tech vanishing hood, above right, while the sink, above, stands out for its chef-style Dornbracht fixtures. But despite the high-tech appliances, which also include a built-in stainless microwave and integrated Sub-zero refrigerator and freezer, what stands out most about the kitchen is its glass backsplash that appears to glow. The Foster-designed bathroom, below, also has a luminous glow thanks to the glass and stone finishes used. The wall-hung basins are simple in design and handsome beside the under-mount tub with a matching stone deck and surround. There is also a separate frameless glass walk-in shower with stainless-steel flooring.
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Old October 25th, 2006, 01:40 AM   #3
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Architect Foster brands it like Beckham to grab extra fee
Robert Booth
22 October 2006
The Sunday Times

A FEE of several million pounds might seem enough for most architects.

But Lord Foster, the man behind the "gherkin" skyscraper in London, has begun demanding extra payments if clients want to claim that he has personally designed a building.

A developer has disclosed that Foster demands a premium to allow it to boast that its building is "designed by Norman Foster" rather than Foster and Partners, his multinational practice.

The potentially lucrative arrangement appears to be part of "provisions which limit the use of Lord Foster's name and image" which the practice confirmed this weekend are inserted into contracts.

Foster, who earned Pounds 2.1m last year, polices his image rights and issued a lawyer's letter to one client who used his name in marketing materials without agreement.

The "cash for credit" demands emerged after Foster allegedly sought an additional fee on a forthcoming housing development in Altrincham, Cheshire, for the client to use his name and image.

Nick Johnson, deputy chief executive of Urban Splash, which commissioned the development, said: "There was a stipulation in the fee agreement that we could not use 'Norman Foster' himself in association with the building unless we came to a separate agreement which ... would require the payment of a further fee.

"We said 'no thanks' because we were quite happy with Foster and Partners and paying a normal fee. Norman Foster and Foster and Partners are to our minds interchangeable, as I think they are to the general public."

When a press advertisement promoting a neighbouring block of apartments, also designed by Foster and Partners, claimed it was a Norman Foster design, Urban Splash received a letter of complaint from Foster's lawyers. The row was settled after Urban Splash pointed out that Foster had appeared in a video to promote the scheme.

Foster, 71, who has also appeared in advertisements for Rolex watches, became embroiled in a high-profile dispute in 2003 when Ken Shuttleworth, his former partner, claimed that he had drawn the concept design for the "gherkin", the Swiss Re building in the City. Shuttleworth resigned and maintains authorship of the award-winning building for which Foster takes credit.

Last week a source close to Foster's firm confirmed that the architect did claim extra fees when his name was used on its own. The source said: "It has been included with the basic contract. He has become really aware of using his brand and image in the way David Beckham has."

Foster's firm said contracts restricted the use of images. "It is a recognition that the true strength of the company is in its plurality and skills," it said.

Using Foster's name on its own could could cost as much as Pounds 1m on a Pounds 100m development. But it appears that Foster may not demand payouts on his more prestigious works. He is credited with designing flagship stores for Asprey, the jeweller, in New York and London but it is understood that no extra fees were paid.

"Norman Foster is seeing how his brand name can increase the value of buildings and he is trying to capture that," said Wally Olins, a brand expert. "He is saying: my name on your building will increase its value so I am going to charge you more money for it."
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