Since his early works more than half a century ago, Norman Foster’s architecture has sought to employ technical expertise to anticipate the future and to overcome physical and social barriers. Inspired by both historical constructions and scientific progress, his projects reconcile tradition and modernity, urban intelligence and transformative capacity, aesthetic excellence and technological innovation.
“Norman Foster. Common Futures”
October 6, 2017 – February 4, 2018
Espacio Fundación Telefónica
Calle Fuencarral, 3
On the occasion of the public presentation of his foundation in Madrid, the Norman Foster Foundation, this exhibition – curated by Luis Fernández-Galiano, Senior Professor of Projects at the School of Architecture of the Polytechnic University of Madrid (ETSAM) and Editor of the Spanish magazine AV/Arquitectura Viva – documents twelve recent projects entering into dialogue with similar proposals from previous decades to underline the continuity of his concerns and to bring to light the variety of his interests.
From involvement in heritage buildings to habitat projects for the Moon and Mars, Foster’s work recovers the memory of the past and anticipates the needs of the future while remaining firmly anchored among the demands and urgencies of the present. All Foster’s proposals – the new work and culture spaces, care for cancer patients and populations lacking infrastructures, sustainable urban development and raised cycle paths – stimulate the endeavour to make our cities more liveable. All with the dominant themes of social awareness, openness to change and innovation.
Thus, this Norman Foster exhibition in Spain is held under the auspices of Fundación Telefónica at Espacio Fundación Telefónica, a building which was a paradigm of innovation in its day, the first skyscraper to be built in Spain, whose impressive structure is highlighted by the montage of the display. It is also appropriate for its central area to be occupied by a set of machines at the service of movement – from the bicycle to the space capsule – which are, in turn, an inspiration for these lightweight architectures and a symbol of a fast-paced world undergoing constant change.
In addition, in the twelve sections of the exhibition, we can run through Foster’s ideas on different topics of social interest, following an itinerary which begins with a reflection on the past and ends with the future, taking in culture, work, well-being and sustainability. Each section presents a recent project together with another from his initial period, demonstrating the continuity of these features in his architecture, constantly focused on the prefiguration of a common future.
TWELVE DIALOGUES. TWELVE POSSIBLE FUTURES
- The future of the past. Barn drawings (1958) – Château Margaux (2009)
We need the past as nutritional support for the present. Our understanding and our emotions live off our memories, but creative activity also uses experience as a source of inspiration.
- The future of culture. Carré D´Art Nîmes (1984) – Prado Museum Extension (2016)
Culture is constructed upon the solid foundations of inherited heritage, together with new strata of interpretation and creation.
- The future of the form. Willis Faber (1971) – Bloomberg (2010)
The architectural form should not be a flight of fancy or a desire to attract attention by means of extravagance. Instead, it should respond to an internal logic integrating composition and construction, the shortest route towards a beauty which is often difficult to grasp or define.
- The future of the function. Functionalism. Sainsbury Centre (1974) – Casa de Gobierno Buenos Aires (2010)
New works should have sufficient flexibility to adapt to the functional changes required in the future.
- The future of work. Olsen Offices (1969) – Apple Campus 2 (2009)
Robotization and mechanization will radically transform the future of work, but the spaces which house it will also undergo substantial changes.
- The future of welfare. Palmerston Special School (1973) – Maggie Centre (2013)
Architecture does not only address the dimensions and needs of the standard person codified in the ergonomic manuals; instead, it should be able to provide welfare for other subjects, for the sick and those who suffer from some kind of disability.
- The future of building and architecture. Climatroffice (1971) – Mexico City Airport (2014)
The history of architecture eloquently demonstrates the commitment of the construction of any age to overcome its own limits, setting itself increasingly ambitious challenges.
- The future of technology. Droneport (2015) – Autonomous House (1982)
The best technique is not the most complex one, but rather the most appropriate one.
- The future of mobility. Of transport. Bilbao Metro (1988) – SkyCycle London (2013)
Improving urban mobility by making it less wasteful of energy and time is a priority for any civil governance, and this is a task to which urban planning and architecture can contribute.
- The future of sustainability. Masdar Development (2007) – Gomera (1975)
There is, perhaps, no more important issue nowadays than the transformation of our economic and territorial model to make it more sustainable.
- The future of the networks. Collserola (1988) – Thames Hub (2011)
The design of the nodes of these networks acquires singular importance, because their capacity and effectiveness condition the volume and dynamism of physical and computer-based flows.
- The future of the future. Cockpit (1964) – Moon (2012)/Mars (2015)
The space agencies are exploring the possibility of building habitats on the Moon and Mars, embodying the long-standing dream of mapping terrestrial life forms beyond our planet.
LORD NORMAN FOSTER
After graduating from the University of Manchester School of Architecture and City Planning in 1961, Norman Foster won a Henry Fellowship to attend Yale University, where he was a student at Jonathan Edwards College, obtaining a master’s degree in Architecture.
In 1967 he created Foster Associates, which later became Foster + Partners, where he continues to serve as Executive President. In 1999 he became the 21st recipient of the Pritzker Architecture Prize and, in 2002, he was awarded the Praemium Imperiale for Architecture in Tokyo. In 2009 he won the 29th Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts and obtained the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. In 1997 he was awarded the Order of Merit by the Queen of the United Kingdom and, in 1995, he received the title of Baron Foster of Thames Bank.