How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr Foster? (2010) - full transcript
The film traces the rise of one of the world's premier architects, Norman Foster, and his unending quest to improve the quality of life through design.
Everything inspires me,
sometimes I think see things others don't.
If you look how Norman looks,
always dressed a very particular
kind of style.
He reflects the qualities
of his architecture very much,
it has that sense of doing
But you also see there's something,
about the architecture
which is hard to read.
How do you understand a building
which is a black glass, curved screen?
You don't quite know
what's going on inside,
and maybe that's Norman also.
The first drawing
I can remember making,
was of an aircraft,
and it was...
it used the only knowledge of aircraft
that I had first time,
which was the model aircraft,
with the high wing, the ribs,
and the source of power was...
you know, rubber,
I mean strands of rubber,
but this was on a herculean scale.
You know, I was up there several
storeys above the ground,
with the joystick and the lever
that would unleash these,
you know, kilometers of rubber.
I obviously had this fantasy that,
you know, I was sitting there in
control all of this great craft.
I can remember the drawing very well,
You can see all kinds
of reasons why Norman,
throughout his life
has been so fascinated by flight.
There is, of course, the beauty
of a artifact,
the way that the wind curves
over an engine,
the way that the revets bring
together pieces of metal,
there is also the sense of
being in control and command.
If he'd been taught to fly when
he was is in the Royal Air Force,
there's no question,
but the world would've lost an architect,
he would have become a pilot.
Ascending a building
like The Eiffel Tower,
changed the way a lot of people
thought of the world,
they literally saw it in another perspective
and that's reflected in the paintings.
I think as an architect,
if you're privileged to be able to enjoy
that dimension of flight,
to be able to see how awesome nature
is and the forces of nature,
to be able to fly vast distances
at high speed
with no engines or solar power
and to be able to literally almost
sniff out the rising air, the sinking air,
and to remain aloft,
but it's also about challenges,
and it's the poetic dimension.
It's... something I never tire of,
There's something that is nothing
short of awe-inspiring.
but the idea of a bridge marching
forward through a landscape,
on a series of giant legs
the scale of skyscrapers.
It even wiggles as you're driving across,
so you can see how spectacular
We forgotten the useful things
could be this beautiful.
Norman never stop drawing,
he communicates in the most effictive way,
through a sharp pencil and
beautiful block of paper,
in his car there are fresh note pads,
and freshly sharpened pencils,
just in case something comes to him.
he is always drawing,
drawing, drawing, drawing...
it's his way he thinks
it's his way he argues points,
you can see the buildings take shape.
His lines are very spare,
but very expressive,
in a very economical way,
just like Norman.
I think he is the most
self motivated person,
I've ever met,
without a doubt.
he has passions, he
has a passion for architecture,
he has a passion for skiing.
he has the passions for flying.
which is, I mean, amazing.
you know, I mean, you don't know, but he has
a commercial pilot's license.
He wants to conquer,
which is conquer infirmity,
in the sense that he wants to show
how far one can do through real power.
I came from a sort
[Richard Rogers Architect]
mould-potted, slightly middle class,
Norman really made it himself,
I'm full of admiration for that,
but it makes him very much
know from the beginning,
the way he is going to go.
hearing bombers go over the house,
in the middle of the night,
with my mother, I remember,
about you know, what kind
of bomber it might be,
and just breaking down into a flood of tears,
just being absolutely,
[Norman Foster's first visit to his
childhood home in 30 years, Manchester,UK]
Norman was an only child,
he was born in the mean
streets of the Manchester,
just after the great depression,
Robert, his father,
managed a pawnbroker shop,
his mother Lily became a waitress,
My voice had change from my father died,
my father was a tenor,
you know, it's was some gift,
I just found a new voice almost,
and I was asking him about his father,
and what he got from his father,
and Norman said what he got from his father
and his mother is work ethic.
they worked and worked and worked,
and he said the only thing was,
he perhaps as a result of them working so hard,
he hadn't got to know them as well
as he would've liked.
This is a very important room, isn't it?
this is where you did those drawing that got you into university.
and when I was at university,
I had a drawing board here,
and this is where I did most
my student work.
One of the things that he did for the portfolio
to get to the university,
was to draw the view from
his bedroom window.
the view he had was of a railway line
which went right past his window,
at eye level,
and he would've been out there,
looking at those big black
throwing out smoke and cinders.
Under the track,
there's a passageway that goes
from Norman's street,
which is humble, poor,
you can smell the damp,
but you go through this tunnel,
under the railway,
and you find yourself suddenly in
a middle class suburb,
with trees on the streets,
and detached villas.
And realise of course,
was on the wrong side
of the tracks.
I came from a background,
where the only honorable work,
if you like, was manual work.
I moved up into of sort of a middle class
world of guaranteed pension.
all the security that my parents never
had which they earned for me,
so I was working in Manchester town hall.
I find it,
I mean I'd escaped at launch time
I discovered architecture.
I didn't know I was actually
it was only in afterwards,
I realized it,
I would, you know, I'd been looking at buildings.
My escape route was a bicycle,
to get me out of that environment,
into other kinds of worlds.
When he came out of the air force,
he was lucky enough
to be recommended
to do a job working in
a firm of architects.
Not as a designer,
but as an assistant to the guy
that ran the building contracts,
I plucked up courage to talk to the most
junior person in the drawing office,
and I remember challenging
this guy and saying:
What do you think
of Frank Lloyd Wright?
and Frank Lloyd Wright was one of
my passions through the local library,
of... you know like Le Corbusier
and so on...
so I then started to engage
individuals in conversation,
how do you become an architect?
what you have to do?
Well, you have to have a portfolio.
how do you get an portfolio?
wow!, I don't know, I mean it's drawings.
So I'd be drawing out of the bedroom window,
I'd be taking drawings home from
beach shores, copying them in the evening,
and then I thought I have to tell the boss,
so I knocked on the door of John Beardshaw,
said I just tell him I'm going
to apply to be an architect.
but you have to have
I've got a portfolio.
how can you have
so I told him, you know
I took his drawings home in the evening.
so he said you had bring it in the next day,
which I did.
erm, and he said: you know, you're a square peg in a round hole,
and give me an office,
a T square,
a book of graphics standards,
and gave me a project: a house,
so that was a turning point.
The essence of Norman's architecture,
is that design can make things work better,
and it's a very optimistic belief,
architecture can make
your life feel better.
On a small scale,
it transformed his adolescent bedroom
in the suburbs of Manchester,
later, it could take him away
from that narrow world
and make almost anything possible.
Architecture, I guess,
for me is something that moves
it really works in terms of all the senses,
in that sense is about the things
that you can measure,
that you can quantify,
and if you like the spiritual dimension,
which is rooted in all of the senses,
and which you can't measure,
but you know it's there, it moves you,
it moves your spirits.
[Old Yale University School
of Architecture USA]
This was the school of architecture
the same ceiling, the extraordinary staircase,
difficult to imagine it,
but very familiar.
Yale in 1961,
was still under the spell of modernism,
Paul Rudolph, the dean,
had been a student of Walter Gropius,
founder of Bauhaus.
And the fire of the modern
movement was still alive,
Yale was full of strong teachers,
but it was dominated by Rudolph.
He was the man who taught Foster
how to draw like an architect,
and even how to look like one.
Rudolph also made him cry,
he used the words "you don't
care enough" to Norman,
after he had been up all night,
working on a project.
Yale never had a kind of Ideology,
and Rudolph was particularly good at,
bringing out the best of every student,
he was tough on them,
he's famously tough and rigorous,
but it is about bringing out
what you wanted to do.
Rudolph really encouraged Norman,
he really pushed him,
with most of us he pushed us,
or you'd be out.
But I think he pushed Norman more
than anybody in our group,
I think he saw things in Norman
that most of us did not see then.
I went on this building,
I did a lot of drawing,
on the perspectives,
so if you just take
a photogragh of those,
I can show you
an extraordinary drawing,
which is probably about so big where
I was drawing line after line after line.
Also on the teaching staff
was Serge Chermayeff,
he wanted to make him think
about how they worked,
and he was the one who
was pushing Norman,
to thinking about how you design
a whole world,
a whole environment.
the other great force of Yale,
was a historian,
whose passion about making architecture,
come alive to his students.
Vincent Scully and Rudolph were
all very much about the visual,
how you sort things,
how you approach things
how things unwound
as you looked at them
from different angles.
Scully was the one who encouraged
both Norman and Richard
to drive across America,
they went on pilgrimages
to look at great architecture.
As we drove into
the city of Chicago,
and my VW Buggy had one of those windows on the top,
the whole crew,not Sue,
but Richard and Norman, kept
and it was freezing,
I mean it was like snow everywhere,
wanting the top to be open while we were
driving so they could take photographs,
of the oil derricks and the big
things all around Chicago,
going into the city.
It was worth the idea,
that they'd start a partnership
one day was born
Having been inspired initially
by American architects,
Foster has that then returned later in
his career to remind Americans of lessons,
that they gave the world originally
but then subsequently forgot.
So he's like many people
of his generation,
someone who admired America
perhaps more than it deserved
at the time, because...
and he's a kind of more
enthusiastic about America
than the Americans are themselves,
because America isn't quite...
or maybe what Foster
imagined it to be
had romantic vision of America.
Just going back,
It's New York,
It's the skyline,
It's the city of towers.
You think your skyscrapers,
it's New York.
The good news is that we have
a tower in New York,
the bad news is that it's
a very very small tower,
amongst the most extraordinary
collection of mega towers.
And how do you make
this tower have a presence,
when it's physically so small.
Scale in a way is the same thing as size,
scale is a quantity of somewhat
it has, it bears a relationship
at one level, to the body
but it bears a bigger relationship
to the imagination.
The way if you like,
the pyramids in Egypt do,
they remain, whatever you do,
you walk up them,
you walk around them,
they remain the scale they are,
which is somehow bigger
than what they really are.
When the Hearst building was finished,
I called Foster,
the Mozart of Modernism,
cause I thought that that conveyed
the way his work seems,
sort of lyrical,
elegant and effortless,
and just as we know with Motzart there was huge effort behind all that,
but part of his genius,
was to produce this finished piece of music.
They didn't show the effort,
they just seem to sort of dance perfectly
through the air.
well, Foster's buildings
tend to do that,
they don't show they're effort.
The diagrid triangulation,
not only produces something
which is inherently stronger.
we can go back in terms of
antecedents: the bottomless, the full of bones, walless and those,
aircrafts of the late 30s,
structures in nature creatures,
inherently stronger using 20% less steel,
a good start in terms
of the sustainablity story,
especially when 80% of that
is recycled steel.
The Hearst tower is set
up to be as green as possible
it also manages to come up with a new geometry,
that no New York skyscraper
had ever tried before,
the corners look as if they disolved
into thin air.
I like the building in New York,
and I told him that,
and he said it was too squat,
and I said, no, that's wrong.
I think the muscularity
of that building, I like.
I think it's a very good building.
The trouble with so much sculpture
is the larger it gets the worse it gets,
and I think the architects
when something is put
outside in the open air,
it changes, the air eats into it,
and it has to be richer,
and it has to be altogether different,
and I think all these things, we haven't even
got the first base on, and architects know all about it.
So we can learn from them on this,
I'm fascinated by the work of artists.
between space and works of art.
The synergy between...
you know, a painting, a
sculpture, a furniture,
the way those come together,
which is a kind of endless personal pursuit.
Given my love of water,
and stones, and mud, and raw materials,
and also the fact that like the first time,
human habitation, the first natural place,
for people to live in was caves,
you know, and Norman has chosen
Neolithic artists to make his wipe
Norman would have stayed in America,
he was happy there,
he felt at home there,
he had a job in San Francisco,
but he kept in touch with Richard Rogers,
and the idea of forming a practise
in London came up,
when Richard got a project,
Norman joined him,
he could always go back
if it didn't work.
so Norman got back on plane,
and flew back to Europe,
to discover that Team 4 wasn't exactly
this big professional office.
It was actually in Norman and Wendy's flat,
it was in a house,
in Hampstead Hill Gardens.
I never forget it.
And they used to have
to reorganize the flat
every morning to turn it
from a flat into an office,
of course if they were having a client
to see them,
you know, they had to do
all sorts of things, you know...
I remember that they had this enormous
great white wooden box that covered the bed,
and they used to put models
on the box, you know...
so it looked like a sort of display unit,
it really was a scream!
Team 4 was where Foster met
his first wife Wendy,
they worked with Richard Rogers
and his first wife Sue,
and also Georgie Walton, Wendy's sister.
it was a short lived partnership
that lasted only three years.
Their first big job was the Reliance
Controls Factory just outside Swindon,
which was the first british
The Reliance Controls was the first
really successful building,
in terms that,
it won the Financial Times Award,
and we thought:
"We've made it!"
and The Enquirer got somebody want to know if they had
to clean the floor in the factory,
but I, so it didn't really made it.
It was an extraordinary time,
it was almost like a pop group in a way,
where all the things that brought
these individuals together eventually,
had the seeds of the things,
that would provoke them to go
in their own directions,
a relatively short period afterwards.
Team 4 split up and it was time
for new start,
Norman and Wendy decided to stay in london,
they formed Foster Associates.
If I think back to 1967,
then really Foster and Partners
was formed rather,
it was at that time 2 people.
My late wife Wendy and I,
who formed Foster Associates.
There are only two problems,
first of all,
we had no work,
and there were no associates.
Without the connections that architects
need to get their first jobs,
the one area in which Norman thought
him might get a foretold,
was by going into the uncharted
territory of industial architecture.
The Oleson building was first serious
thing Foster built on his own.
In those days,
Britain was still divided between
the workers and managers,
they had separate entrances
Oleson stood out because
it was trying
to give the workers something which
is as good as everyone else had,
you could say it was a socially
The project for Fred Oleson
became a turning point,
in the sense that buildings like Willis Faber,
IBM, the Sainsbury Centre,
all visited that building that
we did for Fred Oleson.
The Willis Faber Office
building in Ipswich
looked a lot like a giant
black glass grand piano.
Foster took a radical approach
to everything about it,
how it looked,
how it worked,
the techniques used to build it,
the comfort it offers its users,
its reduced energy use.
How do you give glamour
to an office building?
And in Willis Faber we sought
to create a lifestyle,
so it had a swimming pool,
in a town which at that time,
didn't have a public swimming pool,
It had an atrium, it had plants,
and part of that was the colour,
and the shinny ceiling,
which was a response in a way
from some lessons,
that I learnt on the Oleson building.
I remember the first time
walking up the stairway,
and seing this ceiling and thinking,
I thought it was a white ceiling,
it was a white ceiling,
it was just sucking,
So this ceiling was very subtle,
I mean, extraordinary.
I remember the first time ever,
looking back and
we wake on my ship and seeing all of the brightness,
and the forms of that
that's white, because it
all consists of bubbles.
and said, how many bubbles you are looking at!
and I was in front I'm looking
at fantastic numbers of bubbles,
they come in this way,
look, look at this whiteness
all those bubbles,
beautiful, beautiful bubbles,
everyone of them.
I say, I've been taught in school,
not to be able to design,
cause a bubble is a sphere,
you have to use time.
Buckminster Fuller was the last of the american
eccentric geniuses. A messianic,
even slightly odd figure,
who run the world in his bow tie
giving speeches to students,
as never to be believed went on for
at least 5 hours.
Foster jumped to the chance
to work with Fuller,
and the two began a conversion,
that never stopped until
the day Fuller died.
Fuller's big idea was to do more with less,
to make the strongest structures,
hitting the least amount of resources.
he was a engineer,
an ecologist who defied any label.
he coined the phrase 'Spaceship Earth',
the very image of humanity
floating on a fragile vessel,
lost in the middle of space.
I remember flying him to, in a helicopter,
to the Sainsbury Centre,
at University of East Anglia,
and then we spent really quite a long time
walking around the building,
going back to the building,
through the spaces,
talking about it,
and when he came back into the restaurant,
he draw attention,
to the way the sun had moved,
the shadows had changed,
then he turned around to me and said,
how much does your building weigh, Norman?
and of course, I didn't know the answer.
How much does your building weigh?
and even Norman was stunned into silence,
but being Norman, a week later,
he had the answer,
most of which was lost in the invisible
In the course of finding out how much
the building weighed,
of course I realized the disproportioned
amount of weight
in the least attractive
part of the building.
It was interesting voyage of discovery.
So in a way Bucky was always provoking,
and challenging everybody around him.
Some people would see Fuller
as a impossible dreamer,
with wild ideas about covering
Manhattan with a dome.
On one level,
Norman seemed so different,
He's an architect who seems
to be the personification
of the organized and the ordered,
and it is clear that Fuller made a
real mark on Norman,
and I think the difference is that when Norman
talks about covering the city with a dome,
he believed he could do it.
Technology is the art of making things,
and high technology is performance,
and this particular material is
a high performance material.
Norman Foster 1980
A 3 ft brick wall,
it weighs about 0.5 ton,
a concrete wall, 9 inches, air coverty,
or 3 brick walls with air gaps in between,
except that concrete has
so many overtons.
I mean it's really a unpleasant material,
I mean you know,it stains in the wet,
it attracts graffiti...and no wonder,
it's an aggressive material,
this is sandwich panel,
nice and light,
weighs about a few ounces,
not half a ton,
lets the light through,
compare that with this concrete wall,
half a ton of brick works,
they've all the same performance.
The Sainsbury Centre was a vision
from another planet
astounding optimistic view
of what architecture could be
it was like an elegant and refined machine,
that had the classical precision
of a Greek temple,
sitting in a green landscape.
It was built to house the art collection
of Robert and Lisa Sainsbury,
two remarkable patrons,
who helped make Foster's
The really good buildings come out of a strong
dialogue between the architect and clients,
and the more pressure the client puts
on the architect in a creative way,
I think the better the product.
The work that Norman and the team did with
the Sainsburys at the Sainsbury Centre,
was neat picking and meticulous going
into every issue,
and I think it shows in the end product.
The Sainsburys and Foster,
developed a close personal relationship,
they became something like surrogate parents.
Finished in 1978,
Robert Sainsbury called the centre,
"The finest thing in his collection".
If you could put the Sainsbury
Centre next to HSBC,
the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank
in Hong Kong,
you'll see the difference between
a glider and a jumbo jet,
they're both about forms of flight,
about new ways of dealing
The massive exposed structure,
the diagonal braces,
the bridge structure of the HSBC
makes it a weighty building,
one which is swollen towards the sky.
wether the Sainsbury Centre
is calm, is floating.
It was the first time that anybody
made a skyscraper that looked like it wasn't
just a copy of an American original.
Everthing has to be brought into Hong Kong,
they don't build buildings there, the materials,
the skills and the expertise,
of, historically has always been brought in from outside.
and in our project we were very much
encouraged to try and find whatever was
the best and most appropriate
throughout the whole world
so we went off to America and
Japan and Europe
and everywhere to try and bring the best things
at that moment in time for that project.
What it taught us, really, was there
is a big world out there.
Norman went back to first principles,
deconstructed the skyscraper
and made his own rules.
He put the structure on the outside,
and moved the greatest and remarkables spaces.
It was beautifully built,
and it was a landmark,
that became internationally recognized,
the symbol for the bank,
and its commitment to Hong Kong
before the handover to China.
We'd never done a tall building before,
so we were hungry for the opportunity,
but we also borrowed up to the hilt
and we were taken massive risks,
and I suppose in a way you're
always taking risks,
then we were gambling,
if you like, with the bank,
in the sense that if we had not won
we probably wouldn't be having
this conversion now,
we would had gone bankrupt.
Norman had come long way by
the time that he finished the bank.
He tranformed his life,
he become a very successful,
very visble architect.
He had built an astonishing
project in Hong Kong,
which the world came to see.
It was called the most expensive
building the world had ever seen.
He looked as he was at the top of his game,
but just when things going so well,
some bad thing began to happen,
the financial position
of the practice
was seriously weakened with
the end of the monthly fee
coming in from Hong Kong
to pay the overheads,
there was a series of black fridays,
he had to let people go,
and he began to worry even about
being able to survive.
And about the same time,
Wendy,who'd been so important
to make the practise work,
She had cancer,
It was a terrible time,
what can seem absolutely tragic
and devastating at the time.
It still obviously has a tragic dimension,
if many years later,
you look back on it,
but on the other hand,
life has moved on,
we've all moved on,
um...and you have a better
measure... of satisfaction,
of friendship, of love... of... whatever.
I think I need the silence,
and it's not an escape,
it's a kind of complementary activity.
A time that is so completely absorbing,
but there are other times,
when you're cross-country skiing,
when you're cycling,
you can reflect and often I find
solutions to designs.
There are many dimensions
to those pursuits,
obviously they're about pleasure,
but they are so inextricably linked
with what I do as a designer.
[Mclaren Technology Centre UK 2004]
[Petronas University of Technology
[Millennium Bridge London 2000]
[The Sage Gateshead UK 2004]
Foster has become placeless,
to quite an extraordinary extent.
Rushes with bankruptcy
had overshadowed many architect's careers.
So once Foster had the chance
to work outside of Britain,
he saw building at global
practise as the key to survival.
Downturns on one continent,
can be compensated for by booms
the experience of working
on a world-wide scale,
has transformed Foster and his work.
You can see now that there's a
certain level of impatience
with the way the old Europe does things,
he wants to bring home
what he's learned.
The approach is always to...
to go there,
and to experience it, and to live it,
If it's people you live with the people,
you know, you take your own,
human, cameras, they were...
and there is no substitute for that.
You know, Norman's always taught us
that that you must do it,
which one of the reasons was why
he is always the first one, you know, on the sites.
[Foster + Partners Headquarters London]
It's not the building,
and it's not the physicality of a studio,
it's the philosophy, the way in
which beyond my lifespan,
that will move on,
and have its own life.
That I think is the most
and the one I'm most proud of.
It is a belief in a youth,
in the energy of youth,
in the optimism of youth,
and in the end the ultimate test is,
do you continue to attract
the greatest young talent?
the average age of the company
is the same now,
as it was when we were
2 or 3 people in 1967,
it's still early thirties, thirty two.
It's thrown in the deepen,
and I think that's what's, what's really
interesting about this place,
it is how they integrate you
into the process,
and everyone becomes part of that process,
because the days,
all of the projects,
they're always a journey,
you know, about the brief and the client,
there's never a stylistic,
goal that comes from Norman,
He doesn't say: "It should look like this,
and we develop it for the next."
Yes, it's a whole journey, it's constantly
changing and developing.
As a team,
we've reinvented the genre,
we've reinvented the airport,
we've reinvented the nature
of the high rise building,
we reinvented the relationship
of the old and new.
In terms of...you know,
how you create a new life-cycle
for a historic building,
keeping the best of its identity
from the past,
and perhaps all of us
in one way or another,
we invent ourselves in terms
of changing circumstances,
or from experience or knowledge
or feeding off new challenges.
Architecture is also about power,
it creates the landmarks
of very different kinds
have used throughout history,
to express who and what they are.
Whether is, you know, the Golden gate
or whether is Sydney harbour,
the bridge becomes the symbol
of the place,
transcends the original function,
and in that sense of things,
that the way in which the Reichstag,
which is very much about creating
the democratic forum,
for a reunified Germany,
has become not only the symbol of the city,
but it has become the symbol
of the nation.
The capture of the Reichstag
at end of World War II,
was a defining image of Hitler's defeat.
Its reconstruction by the british architect
was recreate poweful symbol of
reunification the very different
German radio has just announced
that Hitler is dead
Foster's original proposal for the Reichstag
was a much larger structure,
a giant roof saw
directly across the top
of what was left of the original building,
in a kind of exorcism
of Germany's tortured past.
It was too expensive,
and he was asked for something smaller,
and a lot cheaper,
there was also a demand for a symbolic memory
of the dome that had been destroyed by the war.
I remember saying,
there is no way I'm going to be
a party to recreating a symbol
that was of the emperor past which
was a symbol of authoritarian,
you know, the kaiser would call
as and when he felt it was necessary,
and instead, what we proposed
would work with the
ecology of the building,
would work with the winds, would scoop air,
would actually draw sun in,
would have a shade,
and would also celebrate the kind
of processional route to the summit,
for the many visitors,
who would come to the cupola.
The question for Foster is,
do you restore the damage?
do you take what's left of the old
building and make it look new again?
Or do show what's happened
to that building?
Do show its history?
Do you keeping Russian soldiers sometimes
obscene messages written on the stone?
In Foster's view,
of course you do,
this is part of German history,
you can't just wipe these things out.
Where do we
Yeah... But we need... um...
Um... is this really hot water?
It is actually very, very hot
Does it scald? It's so hot.
Because I let it, like, three minutes.
You think it's pretty hot?
Yeah, because I let it
three minutes going.
To take the glass.
Okay,can you put it into here?
All of it? -Hmm
For what is this?
To fill the boiler
to put this out?
It's full, I think we can say,
categorically, it'smore than full.
Okay, put this one down here.
No, no, we need to put
some fuel in there.
And what fuel?
It says the maximum three pieces.
It's starting to smell, Hope it doesn't
explode in our face.
Why's... How can it explode?
Little bit of experimentation
is needed here.
it's getting hot (Hiss)
You can start to smell it
I think the oil.
Try that one too...try that one too!
What was that?
Hey! Hey! Let's go!
Let it build up some steam,
because it'll do the...
Can we shake it?
It's fantastic! look at that!
Ever since he was a child,
Norman's been fascinated by models,
he makes them,
he collects them.
In his house,
he has shelf after shelf of exclusively
crafted model aircrafts and cars.
And even as architecture becomes more
and more a digital design process,
models are a key part of its practise.
As the computer started coming
into the office,
and obviously everybody works on computers now,
you started to wonder whether the model
shop will have a future,
and we have the same people in the model
shop, you kind of wonder how we would use models.
although we can do incredibly
computer renderings of what
spaces might be like,
we're finding we're using more models than ever before.
Models provide a physical, three dimensional
crystallization of a design,
they provide a tangible step in the process
of making an idea into reality.
[Great Court British Museum
For Norman, it's not simply about
seing how a building will look,
it's a means of understanding what a full
architecture experience will be,
I believe that the
infrastructure of spaces,
connections, the public domain,
the kind of urban glue
that bind the buildings together,
is more important than anyone building.
[Trafalgar Square Redevelopment
Also perhaps, you know, trying
to reinvent concepts like an airport,
in such a way that the experience of
the airport will be uplifting,
where really an airport is got to the point
in terms of crowds,
of security and so on,
that is, you know, a kind of reviled building type.
[Stansted Airport] UK,1991
If Hong Kong marked a point of
departure in the evolution of the skyscraper,
Stansted began a new phase
in airport design.
At Stansted the terminal
was turned upside down,
burying the machinery underground,
and moved and transformed the rooftop
into a giant umbrella,
from the claustrophobic
labyrinth of the traditional
The Stansted breaks through
to go a step further,
with the more refined Chek Lap Kok
Airport in Hong Kong.
In China's Olympic year Foster's approach to Airport design,
went even further with Beijing's new Terminal 3.
I think this place is gonna become like
a viewing platform.
Well, well, well.
You can see, you can see
the entire building.
Look, all of it.
For the first time.
You can actually see the aircraft here.
You can see people getting on,
and In here, you will just just see 40 aircraft
on the site all lined up
You can see the whole...
I finally got the diagram,
You see whole thing here.
The airport is the modern city gate,
a symbolic national front door,
reflecting the aspirations of a culture,
but negotiating the
terminals is a stressful,
anxious exprience for most passengers.
A good airport is one
that's easy to understand,
one that allows you to move through it without
having to ask for directions or look for signs,
it celebrates travel, other than makes
the journey an ordeal
If you can see an aircraft,
the runway, and the sky beyond,
you have natural orientation.
It is a privilege to have
this Airport in Beijing.
It is the best I've ever seen.
When I go through it, I look up and
the natural light fills the space
and I find that often, there is
no need for artificial light
It's an enclosed
building but it's very smooth and comfortable
and the natural light makes you feel
as if you're outdoors
As an artist, that's something
that really touches me.
China wanted the building
would make a strong statement
about their country's new place in the world.
It's the largest building on the planet.
Its architectural language
is both contemporary
and rooted in Chinese culture.
This geometry of the roof is like an
analogy of a kind of
crouching lying dragon.
It's very modest looking,
but once you get inside is
completely the opposite of this base
that you would you imagine.
Building Beijing's new Airport
in just 4 years,
was an astonishing achievement.
Only made possible by a highly
organized 50.000 strong workforce,
they lived on the site,
working 3 non-stop shifts around the clock,
at one point, there were
a hundred tower cranes on the site.
I remember doing the competitions
for the terminal 5,
at Heathrow and we didn't win.
A year and half later,
we did the competition for Chek
Lap Kok in Hong Kong,
we won that competition.
I went out,
we built the buildings,
the building operated for 7 years
before Terminal 5 at Heathrow opened.
So, that's how long things take in UK.
We now have a tremendous
amount to learn,
from the best of those emerging
and the way in which
they are thingking big,
taking bold initiatives.
erm... examples of,
in a way almost so obvious,
I just wonder why it takes so long
for the penny to drop.
Realising huge complex projects under the most
difficult circumstances is an achievement,
that does not come without a cost.
When Norman started,
an office of 25 people was considered big,
before the credit crunch
Foster + Partner reached 1.400,
its critics say,
that being big, might make for more good buildings,
but not so many brilliant ones.
For Foster, a big office is a tool.
It gives him the resources to play a part
in the keys you face in an architect today,
shaping the future of the city.
For the first time in history,
the planet has become
and the challenge for an ambitious architect
is to go on being relevant in the face
of such massive change,
working at the scale
of the individual building
doesn't seem enough to make difference.
Man for thousands of years,
has actually lived in harmony with nature,
it is just the last hundred years,
or maybe 150 years,
where you have this incredible
organisation taking place.
The farmer was very happy
he would be working on his field,
he would produce the food
and feed his family,
a very sustainable cycle.
If all farmers suddenly move into the city,
then you have a problem,
and why, why is that happening?
because this guy,
would earn probably three times as much
by selling peanuts at a traffic light,
than he would by working in the fields.
in a sort of remote district,
and that's why the landscape,
of many of the cities that we've been studying together,
show so much of these informal
people who have to sort
of adapt and respond,
and the problem is,
how do you feed all of these people?
and how do you feed
them with energy, with food,
with all the stuff they need,
the way they move around,
in their cars,
in a sustainable way?
We all have dreams and they come
from television programmes,
and we've got all these, you know,
nice people poor,
if this is what you want,
this is what you're going to get.
In the west,
the Industrial Revolution took 200 years.
this change would take place in
just a few decades,
so architects must not only plan cities,
to address the way mankind
is making the planet uninhabitable,
they need do it quickly.
Masdar City in Abu Dhabi,
is an attempt to show how
that might be done,
in the 50 degree desert heat,
it's a hugely ambitious plan
for a carbon neutral city of
a hundred thousand people.
It is actually the idea of creating
a Silicon Valley of clean tech,
and as in Silicon Valley,
the seed is a university,
where you get the new knowledge,
the new research,
and then, companies settle around
and benefit from the research.
Masdar would combine homes with jobs,
it would generate its own power,
and treats its own waste,
the materials and methods used in construction
aim to maximize recycling,
and minimise carbon foot prints.
But at first glance,
the project seems like something from a
science fiction comic Norman read as a boy,
but much of it is based on
very traditional ideas that were
abandoned or forgotten with
the advent of cheap fossil fuels.
Movement in the city will rely on a network
of driverless electric vehicles,
guided by invisible sensors,
running across the city at ground level,
while pedestrians walk on a deck above.
If vehicles are going to become
more efficient and driverless,
and they're going to follow networks
they're going to be programmable,
Then you'd have to separate
them from the human,
because the human
and that's why the city is lifted,
and that's going to be revolutionary
Put 50 billion dollars into focusing on
a centre for renewable technologies,
and spend oil money,
which is there now, on it,
you know with the foresight,
thinking 20, 30 year down
the line is unbelievable,
erm...why aren't we doing that?
will Masdar be the first carbon
neutral city in the world?
We don't know yet,
if it works,
it's a huge achievement,
if it fails,
it's a heroic failure.
If we achieve zero waste, zero carbon,
then that will be a kind of a miracle.
The tragedy is that given
the urgency of the situation,
given what is at stake,
which is literally a survival
of the species.
The thing I find inexplicable
is that there is only one Masdar!
You know, if there were
20 urban experiments,
in terms of 20 cities happening
around the planet now,
one would be very, very critical and say
why only 20?
That is the shocking thing
that is unbelievable.
The big issues in terms of
tackling all this together,
can only be a political initiative,
and I think that probably it will have to get almost
to the point of absolute desperation,
before everybody is forced to get
their act together,
and then, the agonising question will be,
did everybody wake up in time
or did they wake up too late?
Norman's early career was a honeymoon,
a love affair with the critics,
because he produced work,
which is photogenic, very fresh,
and then of course, there always comes
a moment when
someone has to say:
well, just a minute,
haven't we seen this before?
is this becoming overexposed?
maybe he's trading water,
maybe this is becoming self-parody,
maybe a world end to end
covered in fostrism
is not such a great idea.
It's not what you read in the press,
is not about an award,
is not about somebody
saying 'well done',
erm...sometimes, somebody will say,
nice things about something you've done an,d
you don't really think,
you deserve it,
you don't win a competition,
or you get a bad review,
but you know yourself,
if you've done justice to it,
it really doesn't matter.
we all love, we all love praise,
so we're all vulnerable in that sense,
we're all human.
What on Earth is a man in his 70s,
is doing pushing himself to the extremes of a
It's painful to do it,
once he was wearing the wrong
kind of gloves,
and he got Frostbite,
it took him 6 months
but he did it again the year after,
and the year after that.
it's also a very isolated thing to do;
yes you're surrounded by all the other people
in the marathon,
but you're alone in the physical determination,
you have to finish.
I suppose that I've until relatively recently
been inmune from illness,
so the idea of a hospital, or drugs,
o an operation was a kind of alien concept.
Ten years ago,
I was diagnosised with cancer,
that was pretty horrific,
erm, that was probably the worst
moment of my life,
erm...one of the worst.
erm...I remember struggling
through the idea,
struggling through the 48 hours,
before I was kind of rushed to hospital
Erm, I remember being told at the time,
but I was fortunate because
it could have been a heart attack,
little was I to know that 2 years later,
I'd have a heart attack.
And the thing perhaps that really
was important to me,
was the idea of at the end of that 6 months.
I would still be able to train for
the cross-country skii marathon,
and I was told by the doctor,
you'll never do it in 6 months,
you'll have relaxers,
it'll take longer.
The reality was I did to the day
in 6 months,
so I think that in some ways
a state of denial,
is perharps at times helpful.
Having survived the operation,
I remember the marathon afterwards,
and then shortly after that,
I had a check,
and I remember coming back
in a car from the airport,
and wondering why the doctor hadn't
called to give me the results of the check.
So I called the doctor,
we stopped the car,
I got out,
and he said:
I've got bad news for you,
and I remember saying,
you know, what is that mean
tell me the truth
and he said you've got maximum
3 months to live,
that I think was the worst moment ever.
Like the many other challenges,
Norman came through
that health crisis.
The constant thing about Norman
is he will not stop,
he will not get himself
beaten down by things,
he always pick himself up,
he will always start again,
and there is always another
turn in the Foster's story.
Everything is a fresh start,
and I'd love to do every project
that I've ever looked at,
and have a second bite at it,
because you can always
go one step further,
and if you can't go one step further,
then it means that you haven't learned
from what you've done before,
and you're not sharp,
then, it's time to say stop
and do something else.