The great British architects of the past - Inigo Jones, Adam, Pugin, Lutyens – are remembered as singular artists, though they often worked with partners. One of the most famous British architects today has taken partnering to a whole new level. He has a shipload of partners and associate architects. Foster+Partners, with Norman Foster as captain, have built major projects in 150 cities.
Rather like an ad featuring a bottle of Smirnoff’s Vodka, their buildings are often defined by one simple and unforgettable image, such as St Mary Axe, “the gherkin” above; Millau Viaduct’s sail-like span (in the Foster+Partners picture it is happily framed by clouds which soften its massive feet); and the dragon-like Bejing Airport (under construction).
Recently the Wall Street Journal described a huge Foster+Partners project in planning stages for Moscow’s Nagatino Peninsula -
“With a very thin peak, Crystal Island sprawls outward and downward, with a façade that resembles cut crystal.” (Waterford crystal, we think.) The development “is designed to contain more floor space than any other building in the world. . .”
The name evokes Britain’s Crystal Palace, where the world gathered to showcase arts and inventions and exchange ideas in the 19th century. This commercial-residential development has different aspirations. Admittedly, Foster+Partners have a knack for punctuating the skyline.
O, dear, that sounds like a backhanded compliment. I'm afraid it is.