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Take the escalator to the top of the Pompidou Center in Paris and you’ll reach the museum’s largest exhibition hall, Hall 1. It’s a space that has hosted the creations of such high-caliber artists as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Salvador Dali. Now, for the first time, Hall 1 is displaying the work of architect Norman Foster.

According to curator Frederick Megaro, the museum contacted Foster (87 years) in 2018 to display his work in an exhibition on the ground floor, which is often used to display works of architecture, but because Foster wanted to display works that exceed the capacity of the place, the museum offered him an area equivalent to three Fold the allotted place. To help cover the extra cost, Foster secured sponsorship from companies whose buildings he had previously designed.

Norman Foster at the Pompidou Center in Paris, which honors him with a major retrospective that takes a look at some of his greatest buildings and at his vision of the future (Elliot Verdier – The New York Times)

As an architect, Foster has harnessed technology to create modern, environmentally friendly buildings. He reinvented structures such as office towers and airports by moving bulky mechanical elements out of the way – to the sides and below ground – to let in light.

Highlights include the soaring Millau Viaduct in the south of France, the glass-roofed Great Square of the British Museum, Apple’s circular headquarters in Cupertino, California, and the Reichstag in Berlin, a stunning glass dome installed on top of an ancient monument. . In the year of its opening, 1999, Foster was awarded the Pritzker Prize in Architecture and became a Member of the House of Lords, the upper house of the British Parliament.

Foster recently spoke in a video interview from the Center Pompidou, where he is presenting his show (the exhibition opened on Wednesday and runs until August 7).

The conversation has been revised and shortened.

Q: How does it feel to go back in time at the Pompidou Centre?

A: It certainly feels nostalgic because on the night of the official opening, in 1970, I was standing outside the Pompidou Center when the French President inaugurated the building.

There is only one Pompidou. Removing the boundaries between the arts of design, architecture, painting and sculpture is at the heart of the cultural message of this building, not to mention that it is free and open to all.

Q: It has been said about you that architecture is often treated as a fine art but disguised as inappropriate, although in reality it includes disciplines such as science, mathematics and engineering. Is there anything to prevent mixing beauty and function in architecture?

A: No, there should be nothing to prevent that. My purpose as an architect is material and spiritual, and I cannot separate the two. The first goal is to keep the rain out, to keep you dry when it rains, to keep you fresh when the weather is dry, i.e. to find your physical comfort. The second purpose is your spiritual comfort: that the building be sloped so that you can see by allowing the sun to enter and with some light to create shade so that you can then feel the surprise when entering the square. If the architect does not do this, he will not fulfill his duty as an architect. Architecture is about the soul, and the soul is about matter.

Norman Foster in an exhibition of his work at the Center Pompidou in Paris (Elliot Verdier – The New York Times)

Q: You say in the texts on the exhibition wall that a community well served by public transportation can be a model of sustainability. How can urban skyscrapers represent the future in an era of human-caused climate change?

A: I think it’s more important than ever. Look at the energy used by crowded cities with public transportation and compare it to spacious cities with long commutes. A city with skyscrapers like Manhattan is a very sustainable city in terms of energy consumption. In it, people live close to their place of work, and do not depend on the car, and its suburbs are not far away. Mid-rise cities like London or Paris are more sustainable than sprawling, car-dependent Los Angeles or Houston.

Q: Buildings consume 40 percent of the world’s energy. Doesn’t this carbon footprint mean that your profession is at risk of obsolescence?

A: Look at societies like ours that consume the most energy. Statistically, we live longer, have fewer infant deaths, greater life expectancy, and more personal freedom. Despite all the exceptions, we have less violence and fewer wars. Higher energy intake is good for you, for society, and for medical research.

The situation now requires us to generate clean energy, and nuclear energy is the cleanest source of energy, by a huge difference from the rest of the sources, and there is no reason that prevents us, using this clean energy, from converting sea water into fuel for aircraft and removing carbon from the ocean at the same time, this is what Our future.

Q: Climate activists would strongly disagree with you.

A: True, but one must separate facts from hysterical feeling and emotion.

Norman Foster: A History of Architecture is a History of Renewal (Elliott Werder – The New York Times)

Q: You often say we need to avoid climate-damaging transportation, so why are you so involved in building airports?

A: We all feel sorry for the carbon emissions of air travel, and we also regret the huge amount of carbon emissions that are released every time we eat a hamburger, in a way that makes air travel, by comparison, almost insignificant.

Of course, air travel generates carbon, but what about the transportation infrastructure? Airports are connected to each other by cars, metro systems and railways. The whole world is moving. We cannot stop moving overnight. It is a connected world. It is not only about moving people, but also about moving goods, responding to global emergencies and providing assistance.

And if we can make this infrastructure more sustainable, by consuming less energy and recycling more materials, then it is up to us as architects to do so, because we cannot become ostriches burying their heads in the sand.

Q: Don’t you fear the future?

A: No, I feel afraid of anything that might threaten my family, myself, or the community around me. There is always a bogeyman on the horizon, and at any given time, individuals, families and communities may be threatened by their neighbors, or by weather or drought, and it seems We like to think that these things are new to us, and it’s true that climate change seems really new, but it’s less important if we have a pandemic, or if a meteor suddenly hits the Earth.

Q: Architect Zaha Hadid was the first woman to win the Pritzker Prize in 2004, and since then, few women have been honored in the same way. Is architecture still a male-dominated profession?

A: My daughter went to Harvard University in the United States to study art history and then transferred her papers to the Faculty of Architecture in the first year. She is now working for an architect in London and will go to Yale University in America to study architecture. Women are becoming more dominant. More on architecture schools, which is great, the profession is in transition now, and some of those changes are long overdue, I do see the kind of bias you’re talking about, and I feel sorry for it.

Q: Which of your buildings do you think people will look back on in 50 years and consider important?

A: The buildings that I believe will live a long time are those buildings that have become symbols of democracy, lifestyle and nations, and I hope that the Reichstag building (the seat of the former parliament in the German Reich in Berlin) will continue to embody these architectural virtues, as it is an important sign of clean energy, zero carbon, And Berlin’s transition from its role in wartime to its role in peacetime, it is a lot about values ​​on the architectural level.

Q: Your colleague Renzo Piano once said, “Buildings are forever, like forests and rivers.” Do you agree?

A: Buildings last as long as they are useful, but the history of architecture, like cities, is a history of renewal. Cities are our greatest invention. They are agglomerations of individual buildings, and the way you connect them together determines our quality of life more than any individual building. I would like buildings to last forever, but realistically the only constant is change.

The New York Times Service.



Norman Foster was awarded the Pritzker Prize for Architecture in 1999

“My goals as an architect are material and spiritual, and I cannot separate them.”

Norman Foster