by Walter Mariotti
With the arrival of Norman Foster as Guest Editor 2024, the “10 x 10 x 10” project enters its seventh cycle and approaches a milestone that is difficult to match: the centenary of Domus, which will fall in 2028, a century after Gio Ponti and Gianni Mazzocchi realized their boyhood dream. Reading the world through architecture, design, art, and associated life.
It is difficult to describe Norman Foster in a few lines. A British architect with an international vocation, he has been the leading name in global architecture for more than sixty years. More: a living legend, an ideal reference for his ability to read reality and design solutions in all areas of life, from everyday design details to large mobility infrastructures. Such as bridges and airports, via skyscrapers, trains, cars, micro and macro objects.
Born in Manchester into a family of humble origins, he dropped out of school at the age of 16, became employed in the Treasury Offices of his hometown municipality, and after military service in the Royal Air Force-whose approach and passion for flying and love of sports, such as cross-country skiing at which he continues to excel to this day, he spent much of his winter time in the woods of Sankt Moritz. After graduating from his hometown’s School of Architecture and Planning, Foster furthered his education at Yale on a scholarship, which enabled him to dialogue with the great names in architecture at the time, such as Ernesto Nathan Rogers and Louis Kahn. Back in England, in 1965, he founded with Richard Rogers and their respective spouses the firm Team 4, which upon Rogers’ departure became Foster + Partners. Since then, thanks in part to an early dialogue with Buckminster Fuller, one of the greatest inventors of the twentieth century, Foster has measured himself against every aspect of associated life.
If Foster’s early projects show a decidedly technology-driven imprint, focusing on structural aspects, later the British architect was able to codify a style but always renewing himself in recognizable but equally striking architecture. In 1987, with his firm Foster + Partners, he received the most prestigious of the awards related to industrial design, the Compasso d’Oro, for the Nomos system of office tables and desks created for the Italian company Tecno, while in 1999 he won the Pritzker Prize.
His firm, Foster + Partners is active in 21 cities in as many countries and employs more than two thousand architects, achieving one of the highest business turnovers in the world. Among the thousands of projects, which testify to an uncommon ability to grasp the connections between things and people, and demonstrate tops his motto “only change is the constant,” one cannot fail to mention the Reichstag in Berlin, Beijing International Airport, Apple Park in Cupertino, the Millau Viaduct, Trafalgar Square and the Saint Mary Axe in London, the Copenhagen Zoo elephant house, the Bilbao subway, and the Hearst Tower in New York. Those in progress include the Russia Tower in Moscow, the Belfiore Station in Florence, and the Living Wall in Amman, Jordan.
In recent years, Foster has devoted a great deal of energy and resources to the Norman Foster Foundation in Madrid, which has established itself not only as a memorial to its founder but more importantly as a point of reference for researchers from around the world and an accelerator of high-impact education and design for the planet’s future ruling classes. It’s focused on sustainability and urban mobility, robotics, the digital revolution, with a crucial role played by his wife Elena Ochoa, a leading figure in Spanish culture and society and owner of Ivorypress. The Foundation has produced workshops, think-tanks, debates and public presentations involving international guests and sponsors, starting with the first “Future is Now” event in 2017.
Personalities such as Michael Bloomberg, Olafur Eliasson, Nicholas Negroponte, and Janice Perlman have accepted Foster and his wife Elena’s invitation to participate in the Foundation’s activities, producing unexpected results that combine commitment to the transformation of underdeveloped areas of the planet with highly refined plans for the future of culture and society.
On behalf of the entire project community that has gathered around Domus for nearly a century, today we say, Welcome and thank you, Norman!
Opening image: Norman Foster portrait from the cover. Photo © Weston Wells