I was delighted yesterday to have Pritzker Prize winner Norman Foster (Lord Foster of Thames Bank) and his wife, Lady Foster, visit for a tour of the Martin House Complex. It's not every day that such a "starchitect" comes to Buffalo. Foster was in town visiting the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, and stopped by to see Wright's opus, accompanied by Pedro Haberbosch (a Partner in Foster + Partners) and UB Architecture professor and Martin House board member Brian Carter.
|Swiss Re HQ, 30 St. Mary Axe - the "Gherkin"
Of the contemporary starchitects that have become household names - Gehry, Hadid, Libeskind - Foster may be a bit more under the radar. But his firm has made its mark internationally with a series of stunning projects - from the soaring Millau Viaduct (Millau, France) to the iconic new Reichstag building (Berlin) to the controversial Swiss Re HQ, 30 St. Mary Axe (the "Gherkin") which transformed the London skyline. Foster + Partners are perhaps best known among Frank Lloyd Wright fans for Fortaleza Hall, the new multi-purpose building on the campus of Wright's Johnson Wax complex in Racine, WI.
|Fortaleza Hall at the Johnson Wax complex
Foster's biography is intriguing as well: born to a working-class Manchester family, his drawing abilities were "discovered" by a Manchester treasury clerk, leading to studies at the University of Manchester School of Architecture and Yale University. He established Foster + Partners in London in 1967, and after building an international reputation over the next two decades, the personal and professional accolades started to accumulate: Foster was knighted in 1990 and appointed to the Order of Merit in 1997. In 1999, he was created a life peer, as Baron Foster of Thames Bank, of Reddish in the County of Greater Manchester, and became the 21st Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate in the same year.
Foster's wife, Dr. Elena Ochoa Foster (Lady Foster of Thames Bank), is an accomplished Professor of Psychopathology and founder of Ivory Press, a publisher devoted to artist's books. In 2011, Lady Foster and Ivory Press produced an engrossing documentary on her husband's work, entitled How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster? The acclaimed film will be screening in major US cities later this year.