10 buildings by Norman Foster - ICON Magazine (2022)

10 buildings by Norman Foster - ICON Magazine (1)London City Hall by Foster + Partners. Photo by Nigel Young

Here’s a look at 10 of the most recognisable buildings by Norman Foster, widely recognised as one of the leading architects in Britain

Sir Norman Foster is one of the world’s leading high tech architects. He founded Foster + Partners in the 1970s and over five decades Foster has been responsible for radical projects of varying sizes. With an acute awareness of the lightness of structures and their ecological impact, Foster’s public buildings have been particularly innovative in terms of the user wellbeing and sustainable agenda.

As well as the many varied built projects undertaken by the studio, Foster is also well known for conceptual projects. These include the elaborate and forward-thinking Sky Cycleway in London that proposes a series of elevated cycle bridges around the city, the Rwandan Drone port that is currently under construction and offers drone-delivered medical aid for Africa, and the Lunar Habitation that was part of a research project for the European Space Agency.

Here is a look at 10 of his most recognisable buildings.

10 buildings by Norman Foster - ICON Magazine (2)London City Hall by Foster + Partners

London City Hall, 2002

London’s City Hall was designed by Foster to symbolise the transparency of democracy. The building comprises an Assembly chamber, committee rooms, public facilities and the offices of the Mayor, Assembly members, Mayor’s cabinet and support staff. The Assembly chamber faces across the river Thames towards the Tower of London, allowing Londoners to watch the Assembly at work through the glass frontage. Londoners are also invited to use and share the building: the top floor is called ‘London’s Living Room’ and hosts exhibitions or functions and the rooftop terrace offers incredible views of the city. The spherical building has no back and no front and its shape was designed using computer modelling techniques.

10 buildings by Norman Foster - ICON Magazine (3)The Gherkin by Foster + Partners

The Gherkin, 2003

The Gherkhin Building, which is officially called 30 St Mary Axe, became an instantly recognisable part of the London city skyline. The shape, with its narrow peak and tapered body, was engineered to reduce the wind deflection compared to a rectilinear tower. The hexagons in the facade were also designed with energy conservation in mind. The facades have panels that act as “lungs” and allow fresh air into the building, drastically reducing the dependence on air conditioning. The Gherkin is 41-storeys high and is highly energy conscious and socially focused, ensuring there are open spaces on every floor for gatherings.

10 buildings by Norman Foster - ICON Magazine (4)HSBC Building by Foster + Partners

HSBC Hong Kong, 1986

Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation headquarters is a futuristic steel and glass office building with a stepped profile, rising 50 floors up from a plaza on the ground level. It is a monumental building that marked a step in the evolution of skyscrapers. Elevators were moved to the outside of the building where they could be easily serviced and this also opened up space at the core of the building for a more open plan layout. Where the elevators would have sat there is now a central open space. At the top of the building there are two cement canons that are aimed at the Bank of China Building, these are aimed at balancing feng shui.

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Buildings like this and the Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts established Foster as a leader in high tech design.

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10 buildings by Norman Foster - ICON Magazine (5)Reichstag by Foster + Partners. Photo by Nigel Young

Reichstag, 1999

A full reconstruction of the Reichstag was commissioned after the reunification of Germany in 1990. Fosters + Partners added a rounded dome to the back of the building to symbolise the rebirth of the country; its arching glass roof is intended to show how light can enter a darkened exterior. The light and air that now enters the building improves the user wellbeing and opens the building up to the city.

The design had to understand the historical significance of the building, be accessible to all and have be vigorous model for sustainability. Various aspects of the building’s fabric, including Russian graffiti marks have been left to preserve the building as a “living museum”. In many other ways, the building has been radically changed.

10 buildings by Norman Foster - ICON Magazine (6)Torre del Collserola by Foster + Partners. Photo by Nigel Young

Torre del Collserola, 1991

The Torre de Collserola was built to serve a communications role during the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992 and improve the broadcasting capabilities in the area. The architects were faced with a challenging site on a mountain slope, and proposed a hybrid concrete and steel tube with a 4.5 metre diameter. The firm showed attention to both the needs of the building and the consequences of an intervention in the landscape.

10 buildings by Norman Foster - ICON Magazine (7)The Bow by Foster + Partners. Photo by Nigel Young

The Bow, 2012

The 58-storey Bow in Calgary, Canada is the city’s tallest skyscraper. Like many of Foster’s other projects, the Bow was designed to minimise the environmental impact and the sunny south side features a concave facade, with a wind-blocking convex surface facing the other way. The building uses less steel than conventional skyscrapers of the same size and is well insulated to reduce energy consumption. A triangulated design spans the facade to visually break up the mass of the building. The Bow is connected to the city via a series of enclosed walkways, that protect the inhabitants from the cold winter winds.

The building features three sky gardens that feature fully grown trees, meeting rooms and cafe spaces and provide social spaces for the staff. The building also spills out onto a generous plaza on street level.

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10 buildings by Norman Foster - ICON Magazine (8)Millenium Bridge by Foster + Partners. Photo by Nigel Young

Millennium Bridge, 2000

The Millennium Bridge in London connects the North Bank to the South Bank between St Paul’s Cathedral and the Globe Theatre and is the city’s first dedicated pedestrian bridge. The design incorporates art, architecture and engineering to create a “ribbon of steel” that crosses the river with minimal intervention. Pedestrians enjoy panoramic views of the city from the river that are unobstructed by the bridge itself.

Queen Elizabeth II opened the bridge in June 2000 and it quickly had to be closed when the number of people walking over it caused it to wobbly. The deck was reinforced and the bridge reopened; the nickname ‘wobbly bridge‘has lingered.

10 buildings by Norman Foster - ICON Magazine (9)Great Court British Museum by Foster + Partners. Photo by Nigel Young

Great Court British Museum, 2000

The Queen Elizabeth II Great Court in the London’s British Museum. The British Museum had previously lacked a central space for visitors, and its main courtyard was largely unused. The Great Court is now the largest covered square in Europe and provides a space with shops, a cafe and exhibition space in the heart of the museum.

10 buildings by Norman Foster - ICON Magazine (10)Hearst Tower by Foster + Partners. Photo by Nigel Young

Hearst Tower, 2006

The Hearst Tower is Foster’s intervention in a historical structure. The original tower was a six-storey building commissioned by William Randolph Hearst and designed by Joseph Urban in 1928. It was originally intended to be the base of a much larger skyscraper, but these plans were halted during the Great Depression. The original podium building with its cast-stone facade and ornamental fluted columns was retained when Foster added on his ultra-modern glass skyscrapers. The two structures completely contrast each other, but together then communicate the harmony of old and new. The new tower stands at 46 storeys high.

The Hearst Tower was the first building in New York to achieve the LEED Gold Standard for it’s eco-friendly design. Rainwater is collected and used in college systems, daylight sensors control the building’s lighting and almost the entire interior is lit by natural light. The building’s diagrid structure also enabled a 20 percent reduction in the steel needed compared to a conventional building of the same height.

10 buildings by Norman Foster - ICON Magazine (11)Bloomberg Building by Foster + Partners

Bloomberg Building, 2017

Foster + Partners’ Bloomberg Headquarters in Europe is –the architects claim – the most sustainable office building in the world. Situated in central London, the Bloomberg HQ is formed of two buildings that are connected via a bridge. It occupies an entire block and has a grand facade that stands at 10-storeys high and features hand-patinated Japanese bronze and large slabs of sandstone.

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A pedestrian walkway runs through the site of the Bloomberg Building following an old Roman road. The building design was aimed at opening up spaces in the building ad the city to improve the experience of working there for staff and passers by. The main entrance features a mirrored artwork by Olafur Eliasson and three new plazas open up to the public.

The Bloomberg Building is impressive for it’s innovation and holistic approach to design. For example, rainwater and grey water from basins and showers is used to flush the toilets. The Bloomberg Building was awarded the RIBA Stirling Prize in 2018.

10 buildings by Norman Foster - ICON Magazine (12)Millau Viaduct by Foster + Partners. Photo by Nigel Young

Millau Viaduct

The Millau Viaduct is widely respected as one of the greatest feats of engineering and is located in southern France. It is a 2.4 kilometre bridge that spans the River Tarn Valley near the Loire, along the route from Paris to Beziers and Montpellier. The bridge has significantly reduced the travel time by allowing people to use a much more direct route between the French cities.

Foster designed the structure in collaboration with structural engineer Michel Virlogeux. As well as its vast length, the Millau Viaduct is the tallest bridge in the world, with a mast that rises to 343 metres tall. The design takes into consideration the contraction and expansion of the concrete deck by positioning a mast that separates into two columns underneath the bridge deck.

Tagged as Hightech, London, Norman Foster, Skyscraper, Sustainability, Sustainable

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How many buildings did Norman Foster design? ›

Norman Foster gained fame in the early 1970s as the architect of the Willis Faber and Dumas headquarters , in Ipswich, England—an eco-friendly, open-plan building that was radical for its time. He has since built more than 250 works, from the Swiss Re (Gherkin) tower in London to the Beijing Airport ; won many of […]

What is Norman Foster style of architecture? ›

Sir Norman Foster's work is often sleek, modern and high tech; creating cinematic backdrops to everyday life. His firm, Foster + Partners, has projects all over the world and they continue to create progressive works of High-Tech architecture incorporating Sustainable Design.

What buildings did Norman Foster design? ›

Norman Foster

Why is Norman Foster the best architect? ›

Sir Norman is considered an architect's architect, even down to his renowned abrasiveness. His fellow professionals praise his clean designs, the quality of his drawing, the thoroughness of his work, the attention to detail, the after-sales service. Above all, they say, he satisfies the client.

What was the first building Norman Foster designed? ›

The first public building designed by Foster opened in 1978 — the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, England. It integrated an art gallery, study, and social areas under one roof.

Who designed Apple Park? ›

The idea for a new headquarters was conceived by Jobs and Apple's then chief designer Jony Ive. Ive was Apple's immediate choice to design the project, going on to work very closely together with Norman Foster across five years, designing every detail, from the glass panels to the elevator buttons.

What is Norman Foster design philosophy? ›

Foster's design philosophy is based on the expression of values. His architecture is a combination of integration of societal values, flexibility for future uses, and adaptive reuse (the revitalization and repurposing of historic buildings).

What material does Norman Foster use? ›

Norman Foster, in full Lord Norman Foster of Thames Bank, original name in full Norman Robert Foster, (born June 1, 1935, Manchester, England), British architect known for his sleek modern buildings made of steel and glass.

Who said architecture is an expression of values? ›

3.2. Opinion of Norman Foster. In an interview by Tholl (2014), Lord Norman Forster's response to the question, “Is architecture the visual representation of society?” was the following: “Architecture is an expression of values – the way we build is a reflection of the way we live.

Why is Norman Foster a lord? ›

In 1990 he was granted a Knighthood in the Queen's Birthday Honours, and in 1999 was honored with a Life Peerage, becoming The Lord Foster of Thames Bank. Foster has lectured throughout the world and has taught architecture in the United Kingdom and the United States.

What is Sir Norman Foster most famous for? ›

Norman Foster, in full Lord Norman Foster of Thames Bank, original name in full Norman Robert Foster, (born June 1, 1935, Manchester, England), British architect known for his sleek modern buildings made of steel and glass.

What is Zaha Hadid most famous building? ›

A Virtual Tour of Zaha Hadid's Most Iconic Buildings
  • Bridge Pavilion, Zaragoza, Spain. ...
  • Guangzhou Opera House, China. ...
  • Riverside Museum, Glasgow, Scotland. ...
  • London Aquatics Centre, London, United Kingdom. ...
  • Heydar Aliyev Center, Baku, Azerbaijan. ...
  • Galaxy Soho, Beijing, China. ...
  • Port Authority, Antwerp, Belgium.

What are Foster and Partners famous for? ›

Foster + Partners is a British architectural, engineering, and integrated design practice founded in 1967 as Foster Associates by Norman Foster. It is the largest architectural firm in the UK with over 1,500 employees in 13 studios worldwide.

What is City Hall London used for? ›

Current Use

Currently, the London City Hall building is primarily used as the home of the Greater London Authority. The Greater London Authority is the successor of a few previously held government bodies that comprise the office of the mayor and the London Assembly.


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