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Norman Robert Foster, Baron Foster of Thames Bank, OM, FRIBA, FCSD, RDI (born 1 June 1935) is a British architect whose company maintains an international design practice. He is Britain's most prolific builder of landmark office buildings. In 2009 Foster was awarded the Prince of Asturias Award in the Arts category.


Foster was born in Reddishmarker, Stockportmarker, Englandmarker, to a working-class family. He was naturally gifted and performed well at school and took an interest in architecture, particularly in the works of Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier.

Leaving school at 16, he worked in the Manchester City Treasurer's office before joining National Service in the Royal Air Force. After he was discharged, in 1956 Foster attended the University of Manchestermarker's School of Architecture and City Planning (graduating in 1961). Later, he won the Henry Fellowship to the Yale School of Architecturemarker, where he met former business partner Richard Rogers and earned his Master's degree. He then travelled in America for a year, returning to the UK in 1963 where he set up an architectural practice as Team 4 with Rogers and their respective girlfriends, 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 and Partners

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

Foster and Partners' breakthrough building in the UK was the Willis Faber & Dumas headquartersmarker in Ipswichmarker, from 1974. The client was a family firm 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, 25m swimming pool and gymnasium greatly enhance the quality of life of the company's 1200 employees. The building is wrapped in a full-height glass facade which moulds itself to the medieval street plan and contributes real drama, subtly shifting from opaque, reflective black to a glowing backlit transparency as the sun sets. The building is now Grade One listed.

Present day

Today, Foster + Partners works with its engineering collaborators to integrate complex computer systems with the most basic physical laws, such as convection. The approach creates intelligent, efficient structures like the Swiss Re Londonmarker headquarters at 30 St Mary Axemarker, nicknamed "The Gherkin", whose complex facade lets in air for passive cooling and then vents it as it warms and rises.

Foster's earlier designs reflected a sophisticated, machine-influenced high-tech vision. His style has since evolved into a more sublime, sharp-edged modernity.

Foster is currently involved in a dispute with the Couper Collection, a floating art museum near his London offices, regarding his plans to redevelop the area and force removal of the museum's barges.

Ken Shuttleworth, a senior project architect at Foster and Partners, recently left the firm to set up his own architectural practice, MAKE Architects.

In January 2007, The Sunday Times reported that Foster had called in Catalyst, a corporate finance house, to find buyers for Foster and Partners. Foster does not intend to retire, but sell out his 85%+ holding in the company valued at £300M to £500M.

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.


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 cross-bencher.

He is the second British architect to win the Stirling Prize twice: the first for the American Air Museum at the Imperial War Museum Duxfordmarker in 1998, and the second for 30 St Mary Axe in 2004. In consideration of his whole portfolio, 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 Germanymarker 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.

Furthermore, 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 Dundeemarker.

In 2009 Foster was awarded the Prince of Asturias Award in the categorie Arts.

Personal life

Foster married business partner Wendy Cheeseman. She died of cancer in 1989, leaving him with four sons and a daughter.

For a while he was linked with BBC newsreader Anna Ford, but he married Indianmarker-born Begum Sabiha Rumani Malik who became his second wife. They met when Sabiha was married to Andrew Knight, then Chairman of News International plc.

Foster and Sabiha divorced in 1998, and Foster is presently married to Elena Foster (Ourensemarker, Galiciamarker 1958), Chairman of the Tate International Council, and founder of Ivory Press. Lady Foster of Thames Bank (the former Prof. Dr. Elena Ochoa), is a graduate of University of Madrid, a psychologist, and former journalist, who used to lecture at University of Cambridge and is an expert on Alzheimer's disease. In Spain Miss Ochoa is better known as La doctora del sexo after she presented the prime-time TV programme 'Hablemos de Sexo' ('Let's Talk About Sex'), in 1990. T

A qualified pilot, Foster flies his own private jet and helicopter between his home above the London offices of Foster and Partners, as well to his homes in France and Switzerland. In 2007, Foster bought a Swiss 1720s chateau from the German industrialist Charles Grohe, which will become his home from late 2008.


  • Son: Jay Foster
  • Daughter: Paola Foster
  • Son: Eduardo Foster
  • Son: Ti Foster
  • Son: Cal Foster 3 children (Ace Foster, Luka Foster, Demyan Foster)
  • Stepdaughter: India Knight
  • Stepdaughter: Amaryllis Knight
  • Stepdaughter: Afsaneh Knight

Selected projects

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

Proposed or under construction


Dresden Hauptbahnhof roof and cupola

Non-architectural projects

Foster's other design work has included the Nomos desk system for Italian manufacturer Tecno, and the motor yacht Izanami (later Ronin) for Lürssen Yachts.

See also


External links

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