Norman Robert Foster, Lord Foster of Thames Bank (born 1 June 1935), is an eminent British architect. He was born and brought up in the Reddish area of Stockport, England. Already at school he 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 Manchester's School of Architecture and City Planning (where he graduated in 1961). Later, he won the Henry Fellowship to the Yale School of Architecture, where he met his later business partner Richard Rogers and earned his Master's degree. He then travelled in America for a year, returning to the UK in 1962 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.
After Team 4 went their separate ways, in 1967 Foster and Wendy Cheesman founded Foster Associates, which later became Foster and Partners. 1968 saw the beginning of a long period of collaboration with American 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.
The Willis Faber and Dumas Headquarters in Ipswich was one of Foster's earliest commissions after founding Foster Associates.
Foster + Partners' breakthrough building in the UK was the Willis Faber & Dumas headquarters in Ipswich, 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. Over the past four decades Foster's company has been responsible for a wide range of work, from urban masterplans, public infrastructure, airports, civic and cultural buildings, offices and workplaces to private houses and product design. Since its inception, the practice has received 470 awards and citations for excellence and has won more than 86 international and national competitions.
He became the 21st Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate in 1999 and was awarded the Praemium Imperiale Award for Architecture in 2002. He has been awarded the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal for Architecture (1994), the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture (1983), and the Gold Medal of the French Academy of Architecture (1991). In 1990 he was granted a Knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, and in 1999 was honoured with a Life Peerage, becoming Lord Foster of Thames Bank.
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