December 10, 2012



For the 13th Venice Biennale, Norman Foster was invited to create two exhibitions. On the one hand, there’s Central Pavilion, “Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank HQ”, specifically commissioned by David Chipperfield, which presents how a public space, created by physically lifting a tower to make a space at its base, has been used by people over time.
On the other hand, we find “Gateway.” Located at the beginning of the Arsenale, it is one of the first spaces the public encounters at the Biennale. In this installation, viewers are presented with an intense dose of images and words, representing different types of buildings and spaces, criss-crossed with the names of the architects, designers and planners that have influenced our built environment over the years.
Common Ground, the theme of the 13th International Architecture Exhibition, has been interpreted by Norman Foster in two ways. First, it refers to the body of knowledge passed on through generations of architects, critics, designers, landscape architects, and planners. Second, in its most literal sense, common ground is the communal gathering space that brings us all together socially. These are the places that we are most likely to take for granted – the parks, squares, streets, or shared spaces in public structures. This installation presents and evokes both of these interpretations.
Situated at the head of the Arsenale, Gateway is one of the first spaces encountered by visitors, who pass from the light-filled entrance into the black box of the main space. The floor, and the crowd that gathers and passes across it, are washed by hundreds of words, glowing white in the dark and constantly in motion. The words are the names of individuals who, from antiquity to the present, have influenced the design of our cities and buildings. Finnish-based artist Charles Sandison has created a site-specific work for this event.
Enormous, constantly changing images, ranging from the historical spaces of the Western world to the new cities and favelas of Asia and South America, are projected onto the high wall above the heads of the visitors.
The pictures also show spaces that resonate with social change -order and disorder- from the Arab Spring to the London riots. Woven into these sequences are interior spaces of museums, stadia, termini, and other public buildings.
In the spirit of common ground, the images have been solicited from a global network of architects, planners, photographers, critics, writers, and artists. These stills have been combined to make film sequences by the Ivorypress Team lead by Elena Ochoa Foster, with Antonio Sanz as production designer and in collaboration with Carlos Carcas as photomontage editor.



Norman Foster was born in Manchester. After graduating from Manchester University School of Architecture and City Planning in 1961 he won a Henry Fellowship to Yale University, where he was a fellow of Jonathan Edwards College and gained a Master’s Degree in Architecture.
In 1963 he co-founded Team 4 and in 1967 he established Foster Associates, now known as Foster + Partners. Founded in London, it is now a worldwide practice, with project offices in more than twenty countries. Over the past four decades the company has been responsible for a strikingly wide range of work, from urban masterplans, public infrastructure, airports, civic and cultural buildings, offices and workplaces to private houses and product design. Since its inception, the practice has received 470 awards and citations for excellence and has won more than 86 international and national competitions.
Norman Foster was awarded the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture in 1983, the Gold Medal for the French Academy of Architecture in 1991 and the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 1994. Also in 1994, he was appointed Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters by the Ministry of Culture inFrance. In 1999 he became the twenty-first Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate; and in 2002 he was elected to the German Orden Pour le Mérite für Wissenschaften und Künste and awarded the Praemium Imperiale. He was granted a Knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, 1990, and appointed by the Queen to the Order of Merit in 1997. In 1999 he was honoured with a life peerage in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, taking the title Lord Foster of Thames Bank.
From the beginning, we have pioneered a sustainable approach to design, through work that spans the spectrum from masterplans to furniture. Our approach is sensitive to location and culture, often combining the latest advances in building technology with techniques drawn from vernacular tradition; and we harness the skills, enthusiasm and knowledge of integrated design teams, clients and communities to create inspirational environments.
By working together creatively from the start of a project, architects and engineers combine their knowledge to devise integrated, sustainable design solutions. From appointment to completion, the design teams are supported by numerous in-house disciplines, including project management and a construction review panel. And to ensure consistency and personal service, the same core team sees a project through from beginning to end. The design process is reviewed regularly by the Design Board, and the practice is led by the Partnership Board.
The design of each project is reviewed regularly, both formally and informally, under the direction of the Design Board, which is led by founder and Chairman Norman FosterStefan BehlingGrant BrookerNigel Dancey,Spencer de GreyGerard EvendenLuke FoxPaul Kalkhoven,David Nelson and David Summerfield. The Design Board has full responsibility for design within the office. 
While its involvement is important in the early, conceptual design phases, it ensures continuity and quality at every stage of a project, as well as encouraging the sharing of expertise across the project teams. The Design Board was created in the spirit of challenging and being challenged. It also plays an important role in stimulating research, as well as in arranging cross-disciplinary design workshops on various issues, such as urban design and sustainability.