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Norman Foster (architect) facts for kids

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The Lord Foster of Thames Bank
Norman Foster dresden 061110.jpg
Born (1935-06-01) 1 June 1935 (age 88)
Nationality English
Occupation Architect
Awards Stirling Prize, Pritzker Architecture Prize, Minerva Medal, Prince of Asturias Award
Buildings 30 St Mary Axe, London
Willis Faber and Dumas Headquarters, Ipswich
Wembley Stadium
Projects American Air Museum at the Imperial War Museum Duxford

Norman Robert Foster, Baron Foster of Thames Bank, OM, FRIBA, FCSD, RDI (born 1 June 1935) is an English architect. His company, Foster and Partners, has an international design practice. He is the United Kingdom's biggest builder of landmark office buildings.

He is one of Britain's most prolific architects of his generation. In 1999, he was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, often referred to as the Nobel Prize of architecture. In 2009 Foster was awarded the Prince of Asturias Award in the Arts category.


Early life

Foster was born to Robert Foster and Lilian Smith in 1935 in Reddish, Stockport, Cheshire. They moved, soon after his birth, two miles to 4 Crescent Grove in LevenshulmeManchester, which they rented for fourteen shillings (70p) a week: Foster has no recollection of Reddish. Foster's parents were diligent, hard workers – so diligent that Foster, as an only child, felt their heavy workload restricted his relationship with them and he was often looked after by neighbours or other family members. He attended Burnage Grammar School for Boys in Burnage. In a Guardian interview in 1999, Foster said he always felt 'different' at school and was bullied and he retired into the world of books. He considered himself quiet and awkward in his early years often making faux pas.

Foster described Manchester as "one of the workshops of the world" and "the embodiment of a great city", his father, Robert, worked at Metropolitan-Vickers, Trafford Park which fuelled Foster's interest in engineering and design. He was fascinated with engineering and the process of designing. He says that caused him to pursue a career designing buildings. Specific interests included aircraft, a hobby he maintains today; and trains, generated by viewing passing trains on the railway outside his terraced home during his childhood.

He left school at 16 and worked in the Manchester City Treasurer's office. Next, he joined the National Service in the Royal Air Force. After he was discharged, in 1956 Foster attended the University of Manchester's School of Architecture and City Planning. He graduated in 1961. Later, Foster won the Henry Fellowship to the Yale School of Architecture, where he earned his Master's degree Foster also met Richard Rogers at Yale. He then travelled in America for a year. He returned to the UK in 1963. Then he set up an architectural practice as Team 4 with Rogers and the sisters Georgie and Wendy Cheesman. Georgie (later Wolton) was the only one of the team that had passed her RIBA exams. This allowed them to set up in practice on their own. Team 4 quickly earned a reputation for high-tech industrial design.


Foster took a job as assistant to a contract manager with John Bearshaw and Partners, a local architectural practice.  The staff advised him, that if he wished to become an architect, he should prepare a portfolio of drawings using the perspective and shop drawings from Bearshaw's practice as an example. Bearshaw was so impressed with the drawings that he promoted the young Foster to the drawing department of the practice.

In 1956 Foster won a place at the University of Manchester School of Architecture and City Planning. Foster was not eligible for a maintenance grant so took up a number of part-time jobs to fund his studies, becoming an ice-cream salesman, night-club bouncer and working night shifts at a bakery to make crumpets. He combined these with self-tuition via visits to the local library in Levenshulme. Foster took a keen interest in the works of Frank Lloyd WrightLudwig Mies van der RoheLe Corbusier and Oscar Niemeyer and graduated from Manchester in 1961.

Foster won the Henry Fellowship to the Yale School of Architecture, where he met future business partner Richard Rogers and earned his master's degree. Vincent Scully encouraged Foster and Rogers to travel in America for a year. After returning to the UK in 1963 he set up an architectural practice as Team 4 with Rogers and the sisters Georgie and Wendy Cheesman. Georgie (later Wolton) was the only one of the team that had passed her RIBA exams allowing them to set up in practice on their own. Team 4 quickly earned a reputation for high-tech industrial design.

Foster + Partners

Foster and Partners London Office
Foster and Partners London Office

After Team 4 went their separate ways, Foster and Wendy Cheesman founded Foster Associates, which later became Foster and Partners in 1967. A long period of collaboration with American architect Richard Buckminster Fuller began in 1968 and continued until Fuller's death in 1983. They collaborated on several projects that became catalysts in the development of an environmentally sensitive approach to design – including the Samuel Beckett Theatre project.

HSBC Hong Kong Headquarters
HSBC Hong Kong Headquarters

Originally they concentrated on industrial buildings. The turning point was the 1969 administrative and leisure center for Fred. Olsen Lines in London Docklands, where workers and managers are not separated any more. Foster and Partners' breakthrough building in the UK was the Willis Faber & Dumas headquarters in Ipswich, of 1974. The client was a family run insurance company which wanted to restore a sense of community to the workplace. Foster created open plan office floors long before open-plan became the norm. In a town not over-endowed with public facilities, the roof gardens, 25 metre swimming pool and gymnasium enhanced the quality of life for the company's 1200 employees. The building has a full-height glass façade moulded to the medieval street plan and contributes drama, subtly shifting from opaque, reflective black to a glowing backlit transparency as the sun sets. The design was inspired by the Daily Express Building in Manchester a work Foster admired in his youth. The building is now Grade I* listed.

The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, an art gallery and museum on the campus of the University of East Anglia, Norwich, was one of the first major public buildings to be designed by Foster, completed in 1978, and became grade II* listed in December 2012. In 1990 Foster's design for the Terminal Building at London Stansted Airport was awarded the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture / Mies van der Rohe Award.

Foster gained a reputation for designing office buildings. In the 1980s he designed the HSBC Main Building in Hong Kong for HSBC. The building is marked by its high level of light transparency, as all 3500 workers have a view to Victoria Peak or Victoria Harbour. Foster said that if the firm had not won the contract it would probably have been bankrupted. Foster believes that attracting young talent is essential, and is proud that the average age of people working for Foster and Partners is 32, just like it was in 1967.

Present day

30 St Mary Axe, 'Gherkin'
View of 30 St Mary Axe. The building serves as the London headquarters for Swiss Re and is informally known as "The Gherkin".

Today, Foster + Partners works with its engineers to use computer systems. They pay attention to basic physical laws such as convection. They have created efficient buildings like the Swiss Re London headquarters in London. The walls let in air for passive cooling and then let it out as it warms and rises.

Foster's earlier designs reflected a sophisticated, machine-influenced high-tech vision. His style has evolved into a more sharp-edged modernity. In 2004, Foster designed the tallest bridge in the world, the Millau Viaduct in Southern France, with the Millau Mayor Jacques Godfrain stating; "The architect, Norman Foster, gave us a model of art."

In January 2007, The Sunday Times reported that Foster had called in Catalyst, a corporate finance house, to find buyers for Foster + Partners. Foster does not want to retire, but wants to sell his 80-90% holding in the company valued at £300M to £500M.

Foster is a member of the board of Trustees for the architectural charity Article 25. They design, construct and manage safe, sustainable buildings in dangerous parts of the world. He has also been on the Board of Trustees of The Architecture Foundation. The reason for his wealth is he receives 15% of the building cost.

Apple Campus 2 aerial Aug 2016
Apple Park in August 2016

In 2007, he worked with Philippe Starck and Sir Richard Branson of the Virgin Group for the Virgin Galactic plans.

Foster designed the Apple Campus in Cupertino and is currently designing most of their Apple stores. He is also designing Bloomberg's headquarters in London. He also recently designed the Monaco Yacht club and the McLaren technology centre.

Foster currently sits on the Board of Trustees at architectural charity Article 25 who design, construct and manage innovative, safe, sustainable buildings in some of the most inhospitable and unstable regions of the world. He has also been on the Board of Trustees of the Architecture Foundation.

He has recently set up the Norman Foster Foundation which promotes interdisciplinary thinking and research to help new generations of architects, designers and urbanists to anticipate the future.

Foster recently set up his personal Instagram account under the username @officialnormanfoster where he publishes photos of his everyday life


Foster was knighted in 1990 and appointed to the Order of Merit in 1997. In 1999, he was created a life peer, as Baron Foster of Thames Bank, of Reddish in the County of Greater Manchester. He is a Crossbencher.

Norman Foster is the second British architect to win the Stirling Prize twice: the first for the American Air Museum at the Imperial War Museum Duxford in 1998, and the second for 30 St Mary Axe in 2004.

Foster was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1999.

He is also a Fellow of the Chartered Society of Designers and winner of the Minerva Medal, the Society's highest award. In Germany Lord Foster received the Order Pour le Mérite.

Most recently, in September 2007, Foster was awarded the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, the largest architectural award in the world, for the University of Technology Petronas, in Malaysia.

It was announced in January 2008 that Foster was to be awarded an honorary degree from the Dundee School of Architecture at the University of Dundee. In 2009 Foster was awarded the Prince of Asturias Award in the category Arts.

In 2012, Foster was among the British cultural icons selected by artist Sir Peter Blake to appear in a new version of his most famous artwork – the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover – to celebrate the British cultural figures of his life that he most admires.

In 2017, he was awarded the Freedom of the City of London for his contribution to contemporary architecture.

Personal life

Foster married business partner Wendy Cheesman. She died in 1989, leaving him with four sons. He next married Indian-born Begum Sabiha Rumani Malik. Sabiha was married to Andrew Knight when she and Foster met. Knight was Chairman of News International. Foster and Sabiha divorced in 1998. Foster is now married to Elena Ochoa, Chairman of the Tate International Council, and founder of Ivory Press. He has five children and three grandchildren.

Foster flies his own private jet and helicopter between his homes in London, France, Switzerland, Marthas Vineyard, New York and Madrid.

Selected projects

Foster has established an extremely prolific career in the span of four decades. The following are some of his major constructions:


Masdar PRT (3) cropped
Masdar City self driving car
  • More London, London, UK (1998–2000)
  • Duisburg Inner Harbour, Germany (1991–2003)
  • Trafalgar Square Redevelopment, London, UK (1996–2003)
  • Quartermile, Edinburgh, Scotland 2001-
  • Masdar City, Abu Dhabi, UAE 2007-
  • West Kowloon Cultural District, Hong Kong (2009)
  • Thames Hub, UK, 2011-
  • Cardiff Central Square, UK, 2015-


  • Millau Viaduct, the highest road bridge in the world (2004)
  • Western Årsta Bridge, Årstabroarna, Sweden (1994/2005)
  • Millennium Bridge in London (1999/2002)



Higher education[edit]

  • Kings Norton Library, Cranfield University, UK (1994)
  • Faculty of Law, Cambridge, Cambridge, UK (1995)
  • Faculty of Management (now known as Aberdeen Business School), The Robert Gordon University, UK (1998)
  • Imperial College School of Medicine, Sir Alexander Flemming Building, London, UK 1994–1998
  • Center for Clinical Science Research, Stanford University Stanford, California, USA (1995–2000)
  • British Library of Political and Economic Science, London School of Economics,

The Bow, Calgary, Canada, 500 Centre Street SE London, UK (1993–2001) Imperial College London, Flowers Building London, UK 1997–2001

  • Faculty of Social Studies, University of Oxford, UK (1996–2002)
  • James H. Clark Center, Stanford, California, USA (1999–2003)
  • Universiti Teknologi Petronas, Tronoh, PerakMalaysia (2004)
  • Tanaka Business School, as of 2008 renamed the Imperial College Business School, London 2004
  • Free University of Berlin Berlin, Germany 2005
  • Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada (2006)
  • Library, California State University California, USA 2000–2008
  • Yale School of Management, new campus, New Haven, CT (projected 2013)
  • Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, Abu Dhabi, UAE (2007–2015)
  • China Resources University, Shenzhen (2011-2016)


Beijing airport (2872267914)
Beijing airport


McLaren Technology Centre geograph-4478964-by-Alan-Hunt
McLaren Technology Centre



Mixed use[edit]

  • Albion Riverside, London, UK (1998–2003)
  • Al Faisaliyah Center, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, (1994–2000)
  • The Index (Dubai), Dubai, UAE (2010)
  • The Troika (Kuala Lumpur), Malaysia (2004–2011)
  • The BowCalgary (2005–2013)
  • Central Market Project, Abu Dhabi, UAE (2006–2013)
  • Metro, Bilbao, by Norman Foster (31739591750)
    Bilbao Metro
    One Central Park, Sydney
  • (Formerly) 200 Greenwich StreetNew York (projected 2020) Two World Trade Center
  • CityCenterDC, Washington, D.C. (first portion projected 2012; second portion projected 2015)
  • Crystal Island (completion date not set yet)
  • Hermitage Plaza, La DéfenseParis from 2008
  • India Tower (cancelled)
  • Comcast Technology CenterPhiladelphia (predicted completion date 2017)
  • VietinBank Business Center Office Tower, Hanoi, Vietnam (predicted completion date 2017)
  • Battersea Power Station Phase 3, London, UK (under construction)


  • The Murezzan, St Moritz, Switzerland (2003–2007)
  • Regent Place, Sydney, Australia (2003–2007)
  • Jameson House, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (2004–2011)
  • The Aleph, Buenos Aires, Argentina (2006–2013)
  • Anfa Place, Casablanca, Morocco (2007–2013)
  • Faena House, Miami Beach
  • The Towers by Foster + Partners, Brickell (Miami)
  • Arcoris Mont Kiara, Malaysia (projected 2016)
  • 610 Lexington Avenue (projected 2016)
  • 50 United Nations Plaza (projected 2014)

Non-architectural projects

Foster's other design work has included the Nomos desk system for Italian manufacturer Tecno,

Related pages

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See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Norman Foster para niños

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