How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr Foster?

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 September, 2011, 12:00am


Last seen during the Hong Kong International Film Festival in the spring, Norberto Lopez Amado and Carlos Carcas' documentary about the British architect Norman Foster now returns to the Hong Kong Arts Centre, courtesy of none other than Foster's own architecture firm Foster + Partners.

The screenings coincide with the consultations over the design of the West Kowloon Cultural District which Foster is now presiding over. And there couldn't be a better primer to Foster's work than How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr Foster?

The 78-minute documentary is filled with beautifully filmed footage of some of Foster's greatest architectural hits, such as the Millau Viaduct in France, the glass-topped Reichstag in Berlin, Terminal 3 at Beijing's international airport, and - of course - HSBC's headquarters in Central. The title itself is perhaps meant to enhance Foster's gravitas as well: it's a question the great Buckminster Fuller asked Foster when the pair flew over one of the architect's buildings, the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at Britain's University of East Anglia.

If only the filmmakers could be less reverent about the subject and get Foster to explain the realities of his craft. Architecture is as much about politics as precision, as Foster could well attest after his protracted wrangling with Hong Kong authorities over his latest project.

How Much Does your Building Weigh is like a lovely coffee-table book. Possibly what would be more revealing might be a gritty reality-TV expose about the struggles of the most accomplished architect of his generation. But then again, reading about the latest developments at West Kowloon might suffice.