When you walk into the 2 200 sq meter exhibition dedicated to Norman Foster on the 6 th floor of Centre Pompidou (until August 7), you feel completely lost at first. As if you had dived in a pool too large for you. Almost sixty years of drawings are exhibited in the first room, on the walls and in very pretty glass tables, with no captions and no explanations. This is how the architect, who made in France the fantastic viaduct in Millau and the Carré d’Art in Nîmes, as well as a luxurious house in Southern Corsica, wanted the show to start. He designed it entirely with his team and it is so large that you might want to see it a second time.
The show is separated in sections, including Nature and Urbanity, Skin and Bones, the Vertical City, History and Tradition , Planning and places, networks and mobility and futures. Foster was interested in enviorenmental problems as early as the 1960’s when he was a student at Yale and his Foundation, based in Madrid, works with the Centre for Advanced Nuclear Energy systems at MIT. There is a large section of the exhibition devoted to models of airports, London-Stansted, Hong Kong, Beijing, Queen Alia in Jordan, Mexico, Kuweit, and the American Air Museum in Duxford, UK.
Three of the corporate buildings (or villages really) are particularly striking. Bloomberg in London, DJI Sky City in Shenzen, and Apple Park in Cupertino, CA. There, the architect conceived everything (with Steve Jobs) from the circulation on the 71 has to inside architecture for 12 000 workers. He built a few dramatic banks like Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking corporation in Hong Kong, the national Bank of Kuwait… The unrealized project for the New World Trade Center in New York is magnificent as is the Millenium tower in Tokyo which was not built either.
Norman Foster was raised in Manchester by a mother who was a cashier in a grocery store and a father, an accountant, who fell ill. He started working at 14 for a constructor who helped him get into architecture school because he was so good at drawing. He has built a few buildings in Manchester, including Maggie’s center for Cancer, where light and a friendly environment built in clear wood, are a great help to the patients. He also built a wooden chapel for the pavilion of the Holy See at the Venice Biennale in 2018.
The Zayed National Museum (2017-2024) is under construction and will be another architectural reason to want to travel to Abu Dhabi besides the Louvre. The last room includes more technology with a yacht and a never built double decker bus, the Monaco Yacht Club and the McLaren Center for technology in Woking, UK. A 40 mn film, a conversation between the curator Frédéric Migayrou and Norman Foster concludes the show.
The show is as amazing as the 88 year old (on June 1) architect’s career and if you have a friend who is an architect try to go with him or her, it will help. He started Team 4 in 1963 with four people, Richard Rogers whom he met at Yale Architecture school and their respective wives. Now the Foster+ Partners company counts 1 800 collaborators.
Centre Pompidou “Norman Foster” until August 7.
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