A Personal Reflection
The Norman Foster Foundation continues its programme of education, projects and research, together with the development of the archive’s inventory and cataloguing. Additional works have been developed in order to expand the archive’s facilities to grant access to researchers. In total, throughout the year 2018, the Norman Foster Foundation Archive has received over a thousand students, researchers and visitors, representing more than fifty nationalities.
One part of the education programme has been a series of sponsored workshops, ateliers and think tanks bringing together students and scholars from around the world with outstanding mentors in fields such as cities, urban mobility, robotics, digital revolution, and archiving. Six of these week-long workshops have been held with related public presentations and debates. Sponsors have included the Rolex Institute, Libnova, Bloomberg Philanthropies, BYD and Future Planet Capital.
Projects undertaken by the Foundation’s Architecture, Design and Technology team have been linked to the subjects of the workshops. An example was the study showing how BYD’s monorail system could address wider civic issues in four different kinds of cities with benefits such as improving the quality of urban air and linking existing but disparate public transport systems.
The project team have also worked with other foundations to realise projects of shared interest, such as the exhibition in Milan celebrating the life and work of Osvaldo Borsani. The Foundation archive contributed with drawings by Norman Foster of furniture for Tecno—a company founded by Borsani. Others projects include collaborations with the Rothschild’s Foundation in the United Kingdom and the Fondazione Cini in Italy.
In the spirit of breaking down the barriers between art and architecture, the Foundation has been working with the artist Marc Quinn on his Odyssey project to draw attention to the plight of refugees. The first installation, opening in 2019, will be displayed outside the New York Public Library. Besides, the Foundation’s archive has been involved with the Sainsbury Centre curatorial team to develop the exhibition Superstructures: The New Architecture 1960-1990, where a number of models and drawings were loaned. Additional drawings have been loaned to contribute to Vitra Design Museum’s exhibition Victor Papanek, The Politics of Design, focusing on the social, environmental and ecological consequences of design.
One of the Foundation’s missions has been to raise awareness of the plight of slum dwellers—currently one billion people, and forecast to be one in three of the global population by 2050. A project to transform slums from within has now started through a collaboration with Tata Trusts and the government of the Province of Odisha in India. A longer-term project of autonomous communities aims to address the same issues with a higher level of technology—this is now underway as a joint programme with scientists at MIT. On the theme of improving connectivity in rural communities, a joint project has been initiated with Altán Redes in Mexico using digital communication to generate small civic centres.
The Foundation continues to encourage the skills of model making through its links to the Arts University of Bournemouth, United Kingdom. Next year, it will be embarking on an archiving programme with students from Yale School of Architecture in New Haven, United States. It has also established links with Escuela de Artediez in Madrid, Spain, and SAL School of Architecture in Ahmedabad, India.
In the United Kingdom, the London-based Foundation continues its annual awards of a Travelling Scholarship in conjunction with the RIBA, and also has a bursary scheme at University College London’s Bartlett School of Architecture to fund students through their undergraduate degree course.
The Foundation currently has three research fellows funded by and in the name of three families: David and Nina Fialkow, Lisa and Richard Cashin and Harriet and Michael Moritz, plus a fourth one funded by the Ford Foundation.
In this foreword I have noted some of the highlights of our first active year. These, and the many other achievements have been made possible by the untiring commitment of the Foundation team—I am deeply grateful for their dedication and hard work. In turn, we would like to express our appreciation for the generous support of sponsors, supporters, benefactors, institutions, mentors and academic bodies, without whom the Foundation’s workshops and projects would not be possible.
Finally, I would like to pay tribute to my wife, Elena. Without her there would not be a Foundation.