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Top 5 Norman Foster Projects

The B1M | 4:24

Top 5 Norman Foster Projects

Fred Mills

27 July 2016

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NORMAN FOSTER is a prolific British architect whose career has spanned four decades and delivered projects across six continents. From co-founding Foster Associates in 1967 and throughout its evolution to the present day Foster + Partners practice, he has won countless awards and set the pace for architectural design amongst his peers.

Here we take a look at Foster’s five greatest achievements.


First up is the breath-taking Millau Viaduct in southern France. The 2.4KM bridge stretches across the River Tarn Valley near Loire and is part of the route from Paris to Beziers and Montpellier. The bridge greatly reduces journey times and allows travellers to use a more direct route; almost literally as the crow flies.

Above: Foster's 2.4KM-long Millau Viaduct in southern France (image courtesy of Foster + Partners).

The USD $443M structure was designed by Foster in collaboration with structural engineer Michel Virlogeux. It is the tallest bridge in the world with one of the masts rising to 343 meters. To accommodate expansion and contraction movement of the concrete deck, each mast separates into two columns beneath the bridge deck.

Millau Viaduct is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest engineering achievements of all time.


The jewel in the crown of the Jubilee Line running underneath London is undoubtedly the Foster + Partners-designed tube station at Canary Wharf.

The 300-meter-long terminal is built within the hollow of a former West India dock, using exposed concrete forms. These provide robust surfaces for what is one of London’s busiest stations at peak times: around 40M people a year travel through the space and twenty banks of escalators help to move them in and out of the station, maintaining flow.

Above: The exposed concrete forms at Canary Wharf Tube Station. Below: The terminal was created within the hollow of a former West India dock (images courtesy of Foster + Partners).

The terminal’s glazed access and egress points concentrate natural light in those areas, enhancing orientation and minimising the need for signage.

At ground level, the roof of the station forms a landscaped park for those in the surrounding offices to enjoy. A small green oasis in a forest of high-rise towers.


Next on our list is the iconic extension to the Hearst Corporation’s headquarters in New York.

Rising from the original six-story structure that was commissioned by publisher William Randolph Hearst and completed in 1928, the new tower climbs to a height of 182 meters. The USD $500M building provides over 80,000 square meters of office space across 46 storeys.

Above: The Hearst Tower rises from the original six-storey structure that was completed in 1928 (image courtesy of Foster + Partners).

The diagrid triangular structure used 20% less structural steel than a conventional building of the same height. Foster used a similar diagrid technique at the 30 St Mary Axe tower in London’s financial centre.

Significantly, construction of the Hearst Tower began in 2003, making it first new skyscraper to break-ground in New York since 9/11.

Above: The tower's diagrid structure reduced structural steel by 20% as compared to a conventional building of the same height. Below: With work commencing in 2003, the Hearst Tower was the first high-rise building to break-ground in New York after 9/11.


In second place and just missing our top spot is Terminal 3 at Beijing Capital International Airport.

The new terminal was constructed as a “gateway” to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It is one of the largest and most advanced airport buildings in the world, not only technologically, but also in terms of passenger experience, sustainability and operational efficiency. The design integrates transport connections, reduces walking distances for passengers and provides panoramic external views beneath a single unifying 360,000 square meter roof canopy.

Above: The vast Terminal 3 complex at Beijing Capital International Airport (image courtesy of Foster + Partners).

Together with its Ground Transportation Centre (GTC), Terminal 3 creates a staggering 1.3 million square meters of indoor space. It has the capacity to accommodate up to 50 million passengers a year; a point that Beijing Capital International Airport is expected to reach by 2020.


Topping our list is the breath-taking Queen Elizabeth II Great Court at the heart of London’s British Museum.

Historically, the British Museum had lacked a central circulation space with its main courtyard somewhat under-utilised. The creation of the Great Court brought the centre of the museum to life. The glazed canopy creates the largest covered square in Europe; a space that contains shops, a café and an inspiring exhibition space. The glazed roof frames the historic Reading Room at its centre. The room was originally designed by Sydney Smirke in 1857 and underwent restoration as part of the Great Court scheme.

Impressive from all angles and at all times of day, the Queen Elizabeth II Great Court has certainly earned its rights as one of London’s most unique spaces.

Above: The Foster + Partners-designed Queen Elizabeth II Great Court at the centre of the British Museum, London (image courtesy of Foster + Partners).


No reflection on Foster’s career would be complete without a look at some of the many concept designs he and his team developed.

Perhaps most prominent is a “drone port” intended to bring efficient medical care and commercial deliveries to communities in Rwanda.

Above: Foster's proposed "drone port" in Rwanda (image courtesy of Foster + Partners).

Whilst it may seem far-fetched, the structure is actually the inaugural project from the Norman Foster Foundation; an initiative created to respond to humanitarian needs and encourage a more holistic view of architecture.

The Rwandan drone port is in fact slated for completion in 2020, with ambitious plans for remote towns across Africa to have their own small terminals by 2030.

Other proposed concepts have included a Sky Cycleway across London and a 3D printed Lunar Habitation, part of a research project by the European Space Agency. 

Below: A concept design for Foster's Lunar Habitation (image courtesy of Foster + Partners).


Current projects by Foster + Partners include the recently completed Apple store on San Francisco’s Union Square. The project saw close collaboration between Apple’s Chief Design Officer Sir Jonathan Ive and Foster’s Senior VP of Retail and Online Stores, Angela Ahrendts.

The practice are also delivering Bloomberg’s new 10-storey European headquarters in London, due to complete in 2020.

Above: Foster + Partners designed the new Apple store on Union Square, San Francisco and are due to deliver the new European headquarters for Bloomberg in 2017 (below).

Norman Foster (now Lord Foster of Thames Bank) remains Chairman of Foster + Partners. He was awarded the AIA Gold Medal in 1994, the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1999 and the Prince of Asturias Award in the Arts category in 2009.


Imagery courtesy of Foster + Partners.

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