"Consistency between structure and function" Norman Foster keynote lecture at Cersaie 2016

Maintaining its longstanding focus on the world’s great architecture, Cersaie 2016 kicked off its cultural programme with the keynote lecture given by British architect and designer Lord Norman Foster, winner of the 1999 Pritzker Architecture Prize.

After the opening remarks given by Confindustria Ceramica’s vice chairman Mauro Vandini, the lecture entitled “10 on 10: ten Fosters and ten others” was introduced by architecture historian Francesco Dal Co, who described foster as “one of the greatest living architects”. he observed that the constant presence of aircraft in Foster’s life and work represents a clear example of the consistency between structure and the functionality of form.

“I have always been fascinated by the connections between architecture, design, machinery and aircraft,” said Lord Foster at the start of his address, explaining that structures form the backbone of buildings and must therefore be essential and minimalistic.

Lord Foster used a number of key projects to illustrate his career, which began back in 1963 when he established the practice team 4 with Richard Rogers. inventor and architect Richard Buckminster Fuller, the first to explore the principles of rational use of materials, had a particularly strong influence on foster’s work. No part of a building is unimportant, Foster explained. Simple geometries and structures that allow light to flood into buildings are recurring themes in his work.

The Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank Headquarters is an extraordinary example of a fragmented structure whose design was originally conceived as a cross between a spaceship and a glider, abandoning the classic office tower model which until then had consisted of a single central backbone.

The concept of airport was reinvented by turning the structure upside-down and routing services from beneath. Examples include Hong Kong airport, the largest building in the world, and Mexico City international airport, where the distinction between roof and walls dissolves to create a single external skin. It is a “logical” experience for a digital age. 

The projects discussed by Foster included the transformation of the Reichstag in Berlin, a zero-waste building where light floods into the cupola and expands throughout the entire building; the Swiss Re Headquarters at 30 St. Mary Axe in London, a new generation of breathable buildings that reduce reliance on air conditioning, with a structure inspired by the fuselage of an aircraft; the Millennium Bridge in London, a shaft of light that improves the connectivity of the surrounding urban area; and last but not least, the redevelopment of the infrastructures in front of the National Gallery, London, and the Edmond & Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Foster concluded his lecture discussing the project presented by The Norman Foster foundation for a brick droneport to be used for delivering medicines and essential supplies to remote locations in developing countries.