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Norman Foster

Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts 2009

Lord Norman Foster (Manchester, Great Britain, 1935) at the age of 21 he began his architecture studies, which he financed by taking different jobs. After graduating in 1961 from the Manchester University School of Architecture and City Planning, he moved to the United States where he was granted a scholarship to Yale University. There he learnt about the work of figures such as Lloyd Wright and Kahn, who influenced him significantly. His interest in technology and in overcoming the distance between technology and the building industry became manifest in 1966, when he carried out a project for a factory in Wiltshire. In 1967, he founded Foster Associated, a studio which focused on town planning and the design of objects related to building, with its head office in London and where some of his most outstanding work has been carried out. In 1999, the name of the firm changed to Foster and Partners. He currently leads a team of a thousand professionals, with project offices in more than 20 countries.

What made him famous was the Bank of Hong Kong and Shanghai, in 1985, a 47-storey glass skyscraper that stands out for the functionality in its spaces, its natural lighting and its use of technology as a tool for architectural creativity. In 1988, he was commissioned to build of the underground Metro system in Bilbao (inaugurated in 1995), and the Collserola communications tower in Barcelona (on Mount Tibidabo), which was vital for the 1992 Olympic Games. Some of his most representative works are the new terminal at London’s third airport (Stansted, Essex), the glass dome of the restored Reichstag in Germany, the new Commerzbank head offices in Frankfurt (Germany) with 62 floors, the dome in the Great Court of the British Museum (London), the Swiss Re tower (London), the Sage Gateshead Centre for Music (United Kingdom), the Millennium Bridge (London) and the Carré d’Art (Nimes).

Norman Foster has also built the world’s highest bridge, which stands 243 metres above the River Tarn (France) and which is 23 metres higher than the Eiffel Tower. It was inaugurated in December 2004 and is considered the first major project of the 21st century.

His latest works include the Hearst Corporation Headquarters tower in New York, the Caja Madrid tower in the Spanish capital, and the Palace of Peace in Astana, the new capital of Kazakhstan, as well as the world’s largest airport to date, that of Beijing, the emblem of the Olympic Games in China. His work is on permanent exhibition at the MOMA in New York and at the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris.

Through his firm, he also works and campaigns for several non-governmental organisations, such as Save the Children, and jointly finances grants for students of Architecture together with the Royal Institute of British Architects.

He became Lord Foster of the Thames Bank in 1999 and, among other distinctions, was awarded the Gold Medal for Architecture from the Royal Institute of British Architects (1983), the Mies van der Rohe Award (1992), the Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects (1994), the Pritzker Prize (1999), the Auguste Perret Prize (2002), the Praemium Imperiale (Japan, 2002), the Stirling Prize for Architecture (2004) –the UK’s leading award in this field– and the Madrid Creatividad Award (2006).

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