Norman Foster Architecture Portfolio

01
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2013: The Bow

High-Tech Buildings by Sir Norman Foster, Pritzker Prize Laureate The 2013 curved skyscraper in Calgary, Canada, is named for The Bow river.
High-Tech Buildings by Sir Norman Foster, Pritzker Prize Laureate The 2013 curved skyscraper in Calgary, Canada, is named for The Bow river. Photo by George Rose / Getty Images News / Getty Images

British architect Norman Foster is known for "high-tech" modernist designs. As you view the photos in this gallery, you'll notice a repetition of factory-made modular elements. Lord Norman won the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1999.

The people of Calgary call this building not only the most beautiful in Calgary and the best skyscraper in Canada, but it is also the tallest building outside of Toronto, "at least for now." The crescent-shaped design of The Bow makes this Calgary skyscraper 30 percent lighter than most modern buildings its size.

About The Bow:

Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Height: 58 stories; 775 feet; 239 meters
Construction to Completion: 2005 to 2013
Use: Mixed-use; headquarters of EnCana and Cenovus (energy)
Sustainability: Curved design faces south (heat and natural daylight) with convex facade toward the prevailing wind; three interior sky gardens (levels 24, 42 and 54)
Design: Diagrid, six stories for each triangulated section; most offices have a window view because of the curved design.
Construction: Trussed-tube, steel-framed, glass curtain wall
Awards: Emporis World's Most Spectacular Corporate Building
Architect: Norman Foster + partners

Additional specifications are on The Bow Building website.

Sources: Project Description, foster + partners website; Emporis website [accessed July 26, 2013]; The Bow Building [accessed August 14, 2016]

02
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1997: American Air Museum

American Air Museum in Duxford, UK, Sir Norman Foster, architect.
High-Tech Buildings by Sir Norman Foster, Pritzker Prize Laureate American Air Museum in Duxford, UK, Sir Norman Foster, architect. Photo American Air Museum Duxford by (WT-shared) Albion at wts wikivoyage. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The roof of Sir Norman Foster's American Air Museum curves over vast open space. There are no interior supports.

About the American Air Museum:

Location: Imperial War Museum, Duxford, Cambridge, UK
Completion: 1997
Use: Museum of American aircraft from WWI to the present
Architect: Norman Foster + partners

" 'The success of this project lies in the resonance between the elegant engineered form of the building and the technically driven shapes of the aeroplanes"—1998 citation on winning the Stirling Prize RIBA Building of the Year Award

Source: Project Description, foster + partners website [accessed March 28, 2015]

03
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1995: Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge

Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge in Cambridge, UK, Sir Norman Foster, architect.
High-Tech Buildings by Sir Norman Foster, Pritzker Prize Laureate Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge in Cambridge, UK, Sir Norman Foster, architect. Photograph (c)2005 Andrew Dunn, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license, via Wikimedia Commons

Curving glass on the northern side of the Cambridge Law Library floods the atrium and library with light.

About the Faculty of Law:

Location:  Cambridge, UK
Completion: 1995
Sustainability: Natural lighting and ventilation, high value insulation, garden views from terraces, partially buried structure -- all factors that "set new standards for energy efficiency on the Cambridge campus"
Architect: Norman Foster + partners

Source: Project Description, foster + partners website [accessed March 28, 2015]

04
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1991: Century Tower

Century Tower Bunkyo-ku in Tokyo, Japan, Sir Norman Foster, architect
High-Tech Buildings by Sir Norman Foster, Pritzker Prize Laureate Century Tower Bunkyo-ku in Tokyo, Japan, Sir Norman Foster, architect. Photo by Wiiii via Wikimedia Commons, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.

Exterior braces are not only an architectural detail, but also satisfy seismic regulations in earthquake-prone Japan.

About Century Tower:

Location: Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Completion: 1991
Use: "Although it advances ideas first explored in the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank, Century Tower is not a corporate headquarters but a prestige office block with a wide range of amenities, including a health club and museum."
Architect: Norman Foster + partners

Source: Project Description, foster + partners website [accessed March 28, 2015]

05
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1997: Commerzbank Headquarters

Commerzbank Headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, Sir Norman Foster, architect
High-Tech Buildings by Sir Norman Foster, Pritzker Prize Laureate Commerzbank Headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, Sir Norman Foster, architect. Photo by Ingolf Pompe/LOOK-foto/LOOK Collection/Getty Images

Often considered " the world's first ecological office tower," Commerzbank is triangular in shape with a center glass atrium allowing natural light to surround every floor, top to bottom.

About Commerzbank:

Location: Frankfurt, Germany
Completion: 1997
Architectural Height: 850 feet (259 meters)
Architect: Norman Foster + partners

Source: Project Description, foster + partners website [accessed March 28, 2015]

06
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1992: Cranfield University Library

Cranfield University Library in Bedfordshire, UK, Sir Norman Foster, architect
High-Tech Buildings by Sir Norman Foster, Pritzker Prize Laureate Cranfield University Library in Bedfordshire, UK, Sir Norman Foster, architect. Photo Cranfield University Library by Cj1340 (talk) - Own work (Original text: I (Cj1340 (talk)) created this work entirely by myself.). Licensed under CC0 via Wikimedia Commons

The enormous arched roofing not only provides a sheltered walkway beneath, but the design presents a university library as modernly classical.

About Cranfield Library:

Location: Cranfield, Bedfordshire, UK
Completion: 1992
Architect: Norman Foster + partners

Source: Project Description, foster + partners website [accessed March 28, 2015]

07
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2004: 30 St Mary Axe

Norman Foster's Gherkin Building, looking like an illuminated bomb standing upright, in the London Twilight
High-Tech Buildings by Sir Norman Foster, Pritzker Prize Laureate Norman Foster's Gherkin Building, illuminated in the London Twilight. Photo by Andrew Holt/Photographer's Choice Collection/Getty Images

Known worldwide simply as "the gherkin," London's missile-like tower built for Swiss Re has become Norman Foster's most recognizable work.

When Norman Foster won the Pritzker Prize in 1999, the headquarters tower for Daewoo Electronics in Seoul, South Korea was in the planning stage. It was never built. But between 1997 and its completion in 2004, the curvacious headquarters for the Swiss Reinsurance Company Ltd was realized, designed and built with the help of new computer programs. The London skyline has never been the same.

About 30 St Mary Axe:

Location: 30 St Mary Axe, London, UK
Completion: 2004
Architectural Height: 590 feet (180 meters)
Construction Materials: Emporis contends that the only piece of curved glass in the curtain wall is at the very top, an 8-foot "lens" weighing 550 pounds. All other glass panels are flat triangular patterns.
Sustainability: "London’s first ecological tall building....the tower develops ideas explored in the Commerzbank."
Architect: Norman Foster + partners

Learn More:

  • My green agenda for architecture, December 2006, TED Talk by Norman Foster  at the 2007 DLD (Digital-Life-Design) Conference, Munich, Germany
  • 30 St Mary Axe: A Tower for London by Kenneth Powell, Merrell, 2006

Sources: Project Description, foster + partners website; 30 St Mary Axe, EMPORIS [accessed March 28, 2015]

08
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2006: Hearst Tower

Norman Foster's modern tower atop the 1928 Hearst building. in NYC
High-Tech Buildings by Sir Norman Foster, Pritzker Prize Laureate Norman Foster's modern tower atop the 1928 Hearst building. in NYC. Photo by Andrew C Mace/Moment Collection/Getty Images

The modern tower above the 1928 Hearst building is both award-winning and controversial.

Norman Foster built the high-tech tower atop the six story Hearst International Magazine Building (see photo) built in 1928 by Joseph Urban and George P. Post. Foster's website claims, "The design preserved the façade of the existing structure and establishes a creative dialogue between the old and new." Some have said, "A dialog? Oh, really?"

About Hearst Tower:

Location: 57th St. and 8th Ave, New York City
Height: 42 story tower; 182 meters
Completion: 2006
Use: Hearst Corporation global headquarters
Sustainability: LEED Platinum; high performance low emission glass with integrated roller blinds; harvested roof water is recycled throughout the building, including to the Atrium's three-story waterfall wall called Icefall
Design: Diagrid uses 20% less steel than similar structures
Construction: 85% recycled steel
Awards: 2006 Emporis Skyscraper Award; RIBA International Award; AIA New York Design Honor Award in the Architecture category
Architect: Norman Foster + partners

See more at the Hearst Corporation website >>

Source: Project Description, foster + partners website [accessed July 30, 2013]

09
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1986: HSBC

Night and Day photos of Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) in Hong Kong, Norman Foster, architect
High-Tech Buildings by Sir Norman Foster, Pritzker Prize Laureate Night and Day photos of Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) in Hong Kong, Norman Foster, architect. Night photo Greg Elms/Lonely Planet Images Collection/Getty Images; Day photo by Baycrest licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

Norman Foster's architecture is as much known for its high-tech lighting as it is for its sustainability and use of light within open spaces.

About the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Building:

Location:  Hong Kong
Completion: 1986
Architectural Height: 587 feet (179 meters)
Architect: Norman Foster + partners

Sources: Project Description, foster + partners website; Hongkong & Shanghai Bank, EMPORIS [accessed March 28, 2015]

10
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1995: Bilbao Metro

Metro Station Entrance Enclosure,
High-Tech Buildings by Sir Norman Foster, Pritzker Prize Laureate Metro Station Entrance Enclosure, "Fosterito" in Bilbao, Spain, Norman Foster, architect. Photo by Itziar Aio/Moment Open Collection/Getty Images

The welcoming canopies of the metro stations are known as "Fosteritos," which means "Little Fosters" in Spanish.

About Bilbao Metro:

Location: Bilbao, Spain
Completion: 1995
Architect: Norman Foster + partners

Source: Project Description, foster + partners website [accessed March 28, 2015]

11
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1978: Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts

Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia in Norwich, Norfolk, UK, Norman Foster, architect
High-Tech Buildings by Sir Norman Foster, Pritzker Prize Laureate Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia in Norwich, Norfolk, UK, Norman Foster, architect. Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts by Oxyman, own work, licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

About Sainsbury Centre:

Location: University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
Appointment to Completion: 1974-1978
Use: integrated art gallery, study, and social areas under one roof. It "integrates a number of related activities within a single, light-filled space."
Architect: Norman Foster + partners

Source: Project Description, foster + partners website [accessed March 28, 2015]

12
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1975: Willis Faber and Dumas Building

Green Roof of the Willis Faber and Dumas in Ipswich, UK, Norman Foster, architect
High-Tech Buildings by Sir Norman Foster, Pritzker Prize Laureate Green Roof of the Willis Faber and Dumas in Ipswich, UK, Norman Foster, architect. Photo by Mato zilincik, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Early in his career, Norman Foster created a "garden in the sky" for the ordinary office worker.

About the Willis Headquarters:

Completed: 1975
Location: Ipswich, United Kingdom
Architect: Norman Foster + Partners
Area: 21,255 square meters
Height: 21.5 meters
Client: Willis Faber & Dumas, Ltd. (global insurance)

Description:

"Low-rise, with a free-form plan, it responds to the scale of surrounding buildings, while its facade curves in response to the irregular medieval street pattern, flowing to the edges of its site like a pancake in a pan."—Foster + Partners

Source: Foster + Partners website at www.fosterandpartners.com/projects/willis-faber-&-dumas-headquarters/ [accessed July 23, 2013]

" And here, the first thing you can see is that this building, the roof is a very warm kind of overcoat blanket, a kind of insulating garden, which is also about the celebration of public space. In other words, for this community, they have this garden in the sky. So the humanistic ideal is very, very strong in all this work....And nature is part of the generator, the driver for this building. And symbolically, the colors of the interior are green and yellow. It has facilities like swimming pools, it has flextime, it has a social heart, a space, you have contact with nature. Now this was 1973."—Norman Foster, 2006

Source: My green agenda for architecture, December 2006, TED Talk at the 2007 DLD (Digital-Life-Design)Conference, Munich, Germany [accessed May 28, 2015]

13
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1999: The Reichstag Dome

The Reichstag Dome, New German Parliament, Berlin, Germany, Norman Foster, architect
A Dazzling Dome for the New German Parliament by Sir Norman Foster The Reichstag Dome, New German Parliament, Berlin, Germany, Norman Foster, architect. Photo by José Miguel Hernández Hernández/Moment Collection/Getty Images

Architect Sir Norman Foster transformed the 19th century Reichstag building in Berlin with a high-tech glass dome.

The Reichstag, the seat of the German Parliament in Berlin, is a neo-renaissance building constructed between 1884 and 1894. Fire destroyed most of the building in 1933, and there was more destruction at the end of World War II.

Reconstruction during the mid-twentieth century left the Reichstag without a dome. In 1995, architect Sir Norman Foster proposed an enormous canopy over the entire building. Foster's idea stirred controversy so he designed a more modest glass dome.

Norman Foster's Reichstag dome floods the main hall of the parliament with natural light. A high-tech shield monitors the path of the sun and electronically controls the light emitted through the dome.

Since its completion in 1999, the Reichstag dome has attracted long lines of tourists who come to see 360-degree views of Berlin.

14
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2000: Great Court at the British Museum

Norman Foster designed the Great Court for the British Museum in London, UK
High-Tech Buildings by Sir Norman Foster, Pritzker Prize Laureate Norman Foster designed the Great Court for the British Museum in London, UK. Photo by Chris Hepburn/Robert Harding World Imagery Collection/Getty Images

Norman Foster's interiors are often spacious, curvy, and filled with natural light.

About The Great Court:

Location: The British Museum, London, UK
Completion: 2000
Architect: Norman Foster + partners

Source: Project Description, foster + partners website [accessed March 28, 2015]

15
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Foster in Scotland

Norman Foster in Scotland, the Armadillo and SSE hydro Arena
High-Tech Buildings by Sir Norman Foster, Pritzker Prize Laureate Norman Foster in Scotland, the Armadillo and SSE hydro Arena. Photo by Frans Sellies/Moment Collection/Getty Images

Many of Norman Foster's projects retain nicknames. Clyde Auditorium is known as "the armadillo."

Norman Foster brought his own brand of iconic architecture to Scotland in 1997. Known as Clyde Auditorium, the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC, seen here on the left) opened in Glasgow in 1997. It takes its design from the traditions of the local shipbuilders—Foster envisioned "a series of framed hulls," but he wrapped them in aluminum to be "reflective by day and floodlit at night." Locals think it looks more like an armadillo.

In 2013 Foster's company completed the SSE Hydro (seen here on the right) to be used as a performance venue. The interior has fixed and retractable elements that can be arranged to accommodate a variety of events, including rock concerts and sports events. Like the SECC next door, the exterior is highly reflective: "The facades are clad in translucent ETFE panels, onto which patterns and images can be projected, and which can be illuminated to make the building glow like a beacon...."

Both venues are near the Clyde River, an area in Scotland that is being redeveloped by Glasgow. Zaha Hadid's Riverside Museum is located in the same area.

Learn More:

Sources: SECC Project Description and SSE Hydro Project Description, foster + partners website [accessed March 29, 2015]

16
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2014: Spaceport America

A low building looking like a spaceship in the desert, Norman Foster designed Spaceport America in Upham, New Mexico
Norman Foster Designed Spaceport America in Upham, New Mexico. Photo by Mark Greenberg/Virgin Galactic/Getty Images News Collection/Getty Images (cropped)

Remember the space race, new math, and googie architecture back in the 1950s? Since man landed on the moon in 1969, humans have marched into the 21st century with space age confidence not seen since the building of the Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Architecture has always represented humankind's vision.

In America, ingenuity often becomes a story of American capitalism, and space travel is no exception. British-born entrepreneur Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines fame has a new vision, beyond the stratosphere: Virgin Galactic. The Earth's airways are not enough for Branson, and today's airports are inadequate for his imagination, which brings us to New Mexico and Spaceport America.

Spaceport America:

Sir Richard Branson's commitment to commercializing space travel pushed state and local governments to develop Spaceport America, a 27-square-mile patch of desert in southern New Mexico. Branson needed a place to build his Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space, and the New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) is helping him do it.

British-born architect Norman Foster won the international competition to design and build a "terminal / hangar facility" for NMSA. The design is strikingly similar to his 1997 American Air Museum. The Foster + Partners website describe the structure this way:

" The sinuous shape of the building in the landscape and its interior spaces seek to capture the drama and mystery of space flight itself, articulating the thrill of space travel for the first space tourists."

Public or Private Architecture?

Branson tends to call the building his own, as his Virgin Galactic was the only tenant in 2014. The structure houses Galactic's experimental spacecraft and is the training facility for paying explorers of space. "Just as we make our vehicles safer through smart and elegant design," says the Virgin Galactic website, "we prepare our astronauts through medical check-ups and tailored training programs."

The NMSA business plan takes more ownership, calling Branson their "anchor tenant." Spaceport America paid the bill and considers the project a public investment:

"As a State of New Mexico public agency, the NMSA views the project as an investment by the taxpayers of New Mexico to support the emerging commercial space industry, thereby functioning as a catalyst for significant job creation and economic development opportunities. Spaceport America will be a key component in the State’s effort to attract space-related business to New Mexico ."—NMSA Strategic Business Plan 2013-2018

About the NMSA Terminal / Hanger Building:

Location: 27 miles southeast of Truth or Consequences and  55 miles northeast of Las Cruces, near Upham in Sierra County, New Mexico
Completed: 2014
Architect: Norman Foster + Partners
Height: Open low-rise, "the organic form of the terminal resembles a rise in the landscape....Visitors and astronauts enter the building via a deep channel cut into the landscape."
Sustainability: Earthtubing is used to precondition incoming air: "Using local materials and regional construction techniques, it is both sustainable and sensitive to its surroundings....The low-lying form is dug into the landscape to exploit the thermal mass, which buffers the building from the extremes of the New Mexico climate as well as catching the westerly winds for ventilation. Natural light enters via skylights, with a glazed façade reserved for the terminal building...."
Styles: High-tech, organic, parametric, commercial desert modernism
Design Idea: Bicuspid spaceship

Note: quotations are from the architect's project description.

Sources for this Article: Astronaut Training, virgingalactic.com; NMSA Strategic Business Plan 2013-2018, pp. 3,4 (PDF); Project description, Foster + Partners website; Sustainability, Spaceport America website [accessed May 31, 2015]