Norman Foster’s famous buildings: high-tech architecture meets ecological technology

Norman Foster’s buildings have long been an integral part of metropolitan skylines around the world. The many works he has created with his studio Foster + Partners since 1967 have brought the British star architect not only the renowned Pritzker Prize but even a peerage.

A pioneer of sustainability and innovative technology

All of Norman Foster’s buildings are characterised by innovative, often futuristic high-tech elements, combined with high ecological standards.

The primary aim behind this is to create modern, flexible and collaborative environments to live and work in. One of his favourite materials in this progressive design approach is glass.
Copenhagen towers

A monument of democracy: New Reichstag dome in Berlin

With the concept for the renovation of the Reichstag building in Berlin, Foster + Partners managed to win a contest and beat no less than 94 competitors. Subsequently, the comprehensive renovation work began in 1995. The historical building had originally been drafted by the German architect Paul Wallot but was then destroyed during World War II.To visualise the significance of the German parliament (the so-called “Bundestag”) as a democratic forum, Foster designed a glassy dome.

This dome serves as a transparent, publicly accessible area with a view on the plenary hall. In the middle, there is a funnel-shaped element, reminiscent of an upside-down cone. The cone is covered with playful panels and reflects the daylight down into the plenary hall. Likewise, the spiral ramp at the room’s outer edges flaunts a clear, glassy finish. It leads toward an outdoor platform where visitors can enjoy the impressive panorama of the surrounding city.

At the centre of the Reichstag: a funnel made from 360 mirror pieces. Source: YouTube / Foster and Partners

The Gherkin: an energy-efficient, high-tech skyscraper in London

Norman Foster is responsible for several famous designs in London. His Millennium Bridge, for example, carries pedestrians across the Thames between the Tate Gallery of Modern Art and St. Paul’s Cathedral. Another striking feature of the skyline is the headquarters of Swiss Re, which was completed in 2004 and has since been known as the Gherkin.

The glazed façade not only opens up the building to light and spectacular views, but also allows energy-saving ventilation and air conditioning. A number of atria between the floors provide natural ventilation, so that the air-conditioning system rarely has to be used; thus halving energy consumption in the environmentally-friendly skyscraper.

The Gherkin in London. Source: YouTube / Foster and Partners

Copenhagen Towers: upcycling in the green heart of Denmark

Sustainability was also a guiding principle in the design of the Copenhagen Towers, which were completed in 2015 in the newly developed area of Ørestad. The ensemble consists of a 22-storey office tower connected to a lower-rise building. The atrium is the green heart of the building, with a dense “forest” of olive trees. Curved wooden profiles in the steel structure of the glass roof as well as curved wooden benches emphasise the natural ambience.

The Copenhagen Towers are also a model for ecological building projects because Foster uses predominantly local and recycled materials. The interiors, for example, feature concrete floors made from local construction waste and ceiling cladding made from PET plastic and felt. Combined with photovoltaics and an innovative groundwater-based heating and cooling system, the complex uses up to 45 percent less energy than an ordinary building of its type.

Copenhagen towers stairs
Copenhagen Towers inside

Apple Park: Norman Foster’s superlative structure

With the design of the new Apple headquarters in Silicon Valley, Norman Foster has created architectural superlatives in many different respects – entirely in the spirit of the late Apple boss Steve Jobs. With the new Apple Park in Cupertino, Jobs wanted to create a place that would bring together all employees while creating a seamless connection between the high-tech workplace and nature.

In line with this vision, Norman Foster designed the new company headquarters in the form of a ring that, at just under half a kilometre in diameter, is bigger than the Pentagon.

Surrounded by a green space with around 9,000 newly planted trees, more than 12,000 people work under a huge carbon roof behind 13.7-metre-high glass windows around the entire ring. The Apple Campus is powered by 100 percent renewable energy and opened in 2018.

A seamless connection between high-tech workplace and pure nature. Source: YouTube / Ongreening

Whether it be the Copenhagen Towers, Apple Park, or the Gherkin, Norman Foster's buildings enrich urban landscapes and the world of architecture in many different ways.

All over the world. they are genuine eye-catchers which leave a lasting impression on visitors.

Which buildings by Norman Foster are you familiar with? Tell us which of the star architect’s works impress you most!

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