Landmarks in every corner of the world

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 March, 2011, 12:00am

Norman Foster, the 75-year-old British architect, has designed some of the most renowned landmarks around the world.

In Hong Kong, the HSBC headquarters building and the Chek Lap Kok International Airport bear his signature.

So do the restored Reichstag in Berlin, the redesigned Hearst Tower in New York City and the futuristic Expo MRT station in Singapore.

He is no stranger to the West Kowloon Cultural District.

In 2002, Foster triumphed in an earlier design competition for the site with a plan for an enormous canopy covering 55 per cent of the development area.

But the canopy concept sparked concerns over maintenance costs. The idea of a single developer getting the whole project and the plan's high-density development also met strong resistance. The government scrapped the whole plan and started all over.

The prolific architect refused to give up on the chance to shape the city's waterfront and Hong Kong's arts scene. He came up with a whole new plan, dubbed City Park, calling for a huge urban park with 5,000 trees to be planted on the west of the site, almost half the area.

His design also highlighted zero-carbon ideas such as recycling waste to create energy and renewable energy generation.

The plan took hits from the Hong Kong Institute of Urban Design, which was set up by outspoken and influential architects, planners and engineers.

'We see no passion,' Professor Bernard Lim Wan-fung, the institute's president, said in November. If we have to oust one from the competition, it would be Foster's.'

Ivan Ho Man-yiu, a member of the institute's council, added at the time that the plan failed to offer a cultural identity.

'We see only a commercial site plus a park, things that are already built in London, Manhattan and Chicago ... Do we still want a city without character? We have already lived with it for the past few decades,'

Foster defended his plan in an interview in December.

'The park is absolutely unique to Hong Kong,' the Briton said. 'It uses the species you find in the countryside around Hong Kong. And it's unique because of the waterfront setting.

'We've shown how we understood the DNA of Hong Kong ... We've made an extension of the city in which all the activities are all very close to each other,' he added.

Foster left school at 16 to do his national service with the Royal Air Force. His relentless passion and energy propelled him into the architectural stratosphere by the mid-1980s. He has won countless awards and was honoured with a life peerage in 1999.

Foster and Partners employs 1,000 architects working on an enormous number of projects: universities, skyscrapers, hospitals, museums, schools, production plants and entire city centres, stretching from Argentina and Brazil to Mumbai and Beijing, via London, Germany, Istanbul and the Middle East.