Read Norman Foster’s first editorial as Domus guest editor

The British architect outlines his plans for Domus in the introductory article to the January issue, which opens his exploration of  the “Futures”.

 As an architect and urbanist, I believe that we design for the needs of the present, with an awareness of the past, but to anticipate a future that is unknown. My chosen theme of Futures for the ten issues of Domus for 2024 is rooted in this approach. To embrace the future in the master plan of a city or in the design of a building is an act of forward-thinking optimism. This belief in a better future goes back to my childhood and has remained with me ever since. This is despite an awareness that somewhere in time, between World War II and the present, there has been a change of mood, certainly in the affluent West, in which the prospect of the future became less hopeful – more foreboding and threatening.

Domus 1086 is the first issue of the magazine edited by Norman Foster

That shift, reflected in popular culture and the media, was perhaps unintentionally summed up by Yogi Berra, a baseball legend also noted for his quotes, when he declared that “The Future ain’t what it used to be”.

In memories of my youth, I imagined a future that was cleaner, brighter and shinier. The imagery of the science fiction of the 1950s reflected that mood and much of it has become the reality of today. Looking back in time, it seems to me that in every field of human activity – and my own in terms of cities and buildings is no exception – we have made extraordinary progress. This is not to underestimate or belittle the challenges that confront us today.

To get a sense of proportion perhaps we need historical perspectives that can link our present back to the past. To that end, I have invited a number of my favourite authors to contribute essays to the series. They are varied in their backgrounds and disciplines, but they all share an ability to confront us with facts as data, rather than prejudices and emotion. In doing so I hope that their contributions will enlighten and lead to questioning, positively and negatively, some of the current mainstream views, especially on issues of the environment.

The environmental theme continues in the remit of Domus to bring together the worlds of architecture, art and design. This led me to invite photographer Edward Burtynsky to share a selection of his works as covers for each of the ten issues. His photographs capture the environmental impacts of urbanisation and industry on the natural world – often with a disturbingly abstract beauty.


Courtesy Nigel Young/Foster + Partners

In the same vein, I have sought collaborations from a number of other visual artists, from American multidisciplinary artist Doug Aitken to Irish painter Michael Craig-Martin. The paintings of Craig-Martin have the power to make us look afresh and rethink the ordinary objects that we take for granted in our midst. There is a paradox between such massproduced artefacts and his depictions of them, which are lovingly handcrafted with great precision and in striking colours. He generously agreed to create a special print to mark the series and to my surprise, he chose our tower in the City of London popularly known as the Gherkin. In his inimitable manner, the result is like revisiting the building afresh.

The theme of revisiting the past will be woven into this series by looking at how some of the most utopian schemes, conceived half a century or more ago, are working today. These may be at the scale of a neighbourhood created after the destruction of war or an individual residence born out of a research programme. Each project, visionary at its birth, has endured over time and offers lessons for us today. Domus itself is a prime example of that continuum between the past and present, with its links to the avant-garde of the 1920s and the futures of today.

Opening image: Edvard Munch, The Sun, 1911. Oil on canvas. 449 x 786 cm. Photo © Olaf Vaering / Bridgeman Images

Speciale Guest Editor

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