A retrospective pays tribute to Norman Foster at the Center Pompidou

The exhibition promises to be exceptional. The Center Pompidou, in Paris, will dedicate a retrospective to Norman Foster from May 10 to August 7, 2023.architect, a major world figure in his field, has signed a multitude of famous works in the world. The Parisian exhibition will reveal, in a space of 2,200 m², the different periods of the work of the Briton and his essential achievements, such as the Millau viaduct, the Carré d’Art (Nîmes), the headquarters of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation or again the renovations of the British Museum (London) and the Reichstag (Berlin).

In total, a hundred of the architect’s projects will be presented in a gallery of the museum Parisian. The scenography is provided by Norman Foster himself. “I like to say that this exhibition is a ‘future’ rather than a retrospective because we are talking about sustainability. Furthermore, Frédéric Migayrou [commissaire de cette exposition] encouraged me to look at my 60 years of architectural practice“, confides during a press briefing Norman Foster, Pritzker Prize.

An abundant collection of documents

Nature, history, mobility, city in height… Many subjects dear to the architect are approached. “The exhibition, which is divided into eight themes, is as dense as the city facing it“, assures Frédéric Migayrou. Four hundred drawings, including his first ones drawn up when he was 15 years old, photographs, models, prototypes, and the architect’s workbooks will be exhibited. “As far back as I can remember, sketching and drawing have always been part of my life. For me, everything starts with a sketch, which becomes a communication tool during the long process that follows, within the agency and on the construction site.“, says Norman Foster.

The idea behind this exhibition is to show the plurality of the work of the octogenarian. Individual houses, museums, skyscrapers, urban developments, airports, schools, corporate headquarters, metro lines, maritime facilities… Man is a jack-of-all-trades. His agency, Foster + Partners, is the author of more than 400 projects. “He is considered an important figure in the high-tech current, due to the high degree of technological innovation shown in his constructions.“, recalls Frédéric Migayrou. This does not prevent Norman Foster, beyond measure, from developing a global systemic understanding of nature, by reconciling technological progress and a sustainable ecological approach.

Nature, urbanity and heritage

From its beginnings in 1963 to today, it has been celebrated throughout the decades. “Norman Foster integrates his architecture into a context“, insists Frédéric Migayrou. “This is one of the fundamental ideas of the architect, just like that of establishing a dialogue between his projects and History.“The architect considers, in fact, that it is better to rehabilitate an existing building than to build a new one.

Millau Viaduct Norman Foster
Millau Viaduct, designed by Norman Foster. © Daniel Jamme, Eiffage

He also reflects on the identity of cities and carefully integrates his projects into their environment, redesigning, for example, the famous Trafalgar Square in London. Thus, urbanity but also nature, two worlds “parallels” Who “intersect creatively“, according to the architect, are studied in this exhibition. Norman Foster believes that it is possible to preserve nature by building “dense urban agglomerations“, and this, in “guaranteeing the privacy of the inhabitants“.

The importance of densifying cities

Another major subject is that of the city in height. “A vertical community, well served by public transport, can be a model of sustainable development“, believes the man who has designed many skyscrapers. He notably designed the Hearst tower (new York) and its vertical triangular steel mesh structure, and “The Gherkin” (the pickle), one of the iconic buildings of the City of London’s financial district. “We were the first to challenge the traditional tower, with its central core of mechanical, circulation and structural facilities, and to create open, layered, flexible spaces with wide views“, he testifies.

Norman Foster The Gherkin London
St Mary Axe, aka “The Gherkin”, in London. © Nigel Young, Foster + Partners

Norman Foster is also an infinity of network and mobility projects. He has worked at around twenty airports (Mexico City, MarseillesAmman, etc.), train stations and metro lines (Sydney, Toronto) but also more astonishing infrastructures, such as micro nuclear power plants at UNITED STATESan airport system for drones in Africa and lunar and Martian habitations for NASA and the European Space Agency.

To visitors who know only a few of his major achievements, Norman Foster wishes “reveal to them the process behind these works“, “give them an overview of the different versions we can imagine of a project“and show that an architecture”always comes from a drawing“.

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