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Norman Foster, Baron Foster of Thames Bank

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Norman Robert Foster, Baron Foster of Thames Bank, OM, Kt, RA (born 1 June 1935) is a British architect whose company, Foster + Partners, maintains an international design practice famous for high-tech architecture.

He is the President of the Norman Foster Foundation. The Norman Foster Foundation promotes interdisciplinary thinking and research to help new generations of architects, designers and urbanists to anticipate the future. The foundation, which opened in June 2017, is based in Madrid and operates globally.

He is one of Britain's most prolific architects of his generation.[2] In 1999, he was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, often referred to as the Nobel Prize of architecture.[3] In 2009, Foster was awarded the Prince of Asturias Award in the Arts category. In 1994, he received the AIA Gold Medal.

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  • David Mirvish | Feb 4, 2014 | Appel Salon


[pause] Tina Srebotnjak: Okay. Let's get on with tonight. I will turn things over to our partner at the Toronto Star, and I will ask Bob Hepburn to come up. He's the Director of Community Relations and Communications. [applause] Bob Hepburn: Thank you, Tina and thanks for coming out for another Star Talks. We've been doing these events for four, five seasons. At the Library, we've had everyone from Rick Mercer to Margaret Trudeau to David Mirvish. And in the summertime, we take Star Talks on the road to Stratford. We do four events during summer right on the stage with the actors from the plays. So if you get to Stratford, take a look and we'll be there. Richard Ouzounian our main theatre critic does the interviews. BH: My job tonight is to introduce Chris Hume and David Mirvish. Chris told me just a few minutes ago when he came into the library, somebody walked up to him and said, "You're pro-condo!" [laughter] and just walked on. [laughter] BH: I have to read this 'cause Chris has won so many awards, I gotta get them all straight. Anyway, he's a champion of both cities and the arts and he's been covering urban affairs for the Star since the 1980s. He's also our main architecture critic. In 2009, he won a National Newspaper award, that's the highest honour for my business for his columns about architecture and urban affairs. Also, the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada has given Chris its President's Award for Journalism. He's also received a Certificate of Appreciation from the Ontario Association of Architects. And in his book, William James' Toronto Views, he won a Toronto Heritage Award. And in 2004, he's received a Landscape Ontario Award. He's also named by Now Magazine... It's one of our competitors, it's not one of the ones that we own, we own The Grid, he was named Toronto's best newspaper columnist. And Chris has also appeared frequently on radio, on television, where he comments on city issues everywhere from condos to streets. BH: David Mirvish. Where to start? He is an art collector, an art dealer, a theatre producer and he owns and operates the Royal Alexander Theatre, the Princess of Wales Theatre, the Ed Mirvish Theatre, the Panasonic Theatre. He has served on the Board of Trustees of the Royal Ontario Museum and the National Gallery of Canada. He's a member of the Order of Canada, the Order of Ontario. He's received an honorary degree from the University of Toronto and currently serves as Chancellor of the University of Guelph. BH: What brings him here tonight, though, is his role as a real estate developer and a city visionary. A partnership with Frank Gehry, Toronto-born famed architect, Mr. Mirvish is planning to redevelop the King Street West, John Street area with three distinct tall buildings, with residential and commercial space, an art gallery, and a new campus for the Ontario College of Art. Many people, though, oppose this project which still needs final city approval. They say the buildings are too tall and could ruin the entertainment district. So tonight, discussion about a project and a vision that could change our city forever. Please welcome David Mirvish and Christopher Hume. [applause] Christopher Hume: I just wanted to say a few words. Bob pretty well spelled out why we're here tonight, what we're talking about. I've adopted the cause of David's scheme for King Street West. First of all, as I said, I'm a big fan of David's. I'm a big fan of Frank Gehry's. I'm a big fan of Toronto. I'm not a big fan necessarily of the Planning Department, but maybe we can talk about that later on. This man came up to me and talked about my love of condos. I'm too pro-condo. The condo boom has changed this city. It's brought thousands and thousands of people into the core. It's kept the city alive. It's kept the city vibrant. We haven't had the hollowing out of the middle of the city that so many American cities experienced. We've stayed alive in recent years, in the last 20, 25 years, as much as anything that's because of the condo. CH: But let's be honest. Most condo developers are interested in doing what they do to make a buck. Some are good at it and some are bad at it. Some care about architecture, some don't. But David is not a typical developer. That puts him in an almost unique position. One that makes anything that he's going to do automatically interesting because his motivation is different than, as I say, the run-of-the-mill fly-by-night, you know who they are, developers. I didn't mention any names. And the fact, of course, that he's hired Frank Gehry is proof of what I'm saying. So, to my mind, this is a scheme that has enormous possibilities. And so, David and I are going to talk first of all about Frank Gehry, why we think he's an important architect, why David wanted to get him involved in this project, what the project will consist of exactly. And then, I know David's gonna be a little reluctant, but we are gonna have to talk I think at some point about how the city has responded, where the project is now in its genesis, what will happen next, and what we can look forward to, so I'm the man with the clicker and David, I'm gonna show... We have some slides here. David Mirvish: I can see them there. Good. CH: And so, maybe we'll get something up here and you can talk about your relationship with Frank and what we're looking at. DM: First of all, can you hear me? That work? Okay, good. From 1963 to 1978, I sort of wasted my youth as an art dealer. And I thought, "What is this stuff I'm looking at? What's it all about?" And it was a magic moment to enter the art world because it was a time when there was a shift in sensibility and a great optimism that came in with The Kennedys in '61. And with the Prime Minister in this country who said, "You should only work at jobs you like". Who could imagine that today? But that was what we were told as youth. And by the end of the '60s, although things began to break down with Kent State and the various social problems that occurred, we began to think why couldn't a painting be a mile long? And an American painter named Gene Davis marked down a mile of road and painted stripes for a mile. So there was this sense that anything could happen and that we should take hold of our future and try to do the best we can. DM: In that atmosphere, in '71, I was showing a California artist named Ron Davis and he had just built a house and studio with an architect who had relatives here in Toronto, and I was doing a dinner for the opening night and he said, "May I bring along Frank Gehry?". And that's how I met Frank. And Frank was not yet famous. He wasn't famous till '78 when he did his own house, but it gave me an introduction to him that kept me interested, and I kept watching what he did and clipping articles about him for the next 40 years, and when he did 8 Spruce Street in New York, which is a 76-storey condominium, and when I met some of the people later who had lived in that and said, "It's not just about what you see outside. It's about what it's like to live inside its space". DM: It was extraordinarily inspiring because what Frank did is he gave you a square room and the fourth wall, had a little... Not a balcony, but a protrusion where you sat in the windowsill as if it was a Victorian house and you could stand there and be out in space and look all around you. He pushed that fourth wall out in every suite that was in that building. It was an extraordinary, creative, interesting way for people to live, and I felt, "Can we raise the bar?". And I want to dispel something, two things, right away from the beginning, which is that one, I'm doing a commercial project, it has to be commercially viable or it will never be financed. So, on that level, I'm like other developers; I want to be successful. On another level, it's a heritage program because it's the accumulation of a family that came as immigrants to this country and who forgot to turn off their cell phone. [laughter] DM: My son won't like me for this. It will go off. There we are. Okay. And move from Dundas Street to Bloor Street to King Street. And all of that had different impacts on different neighbourhoods and those neighbourhoods had a great impact on us. They shaped my life. So, in a way, I'm trying to take Frank's history, lived here till he was 18, who wanted to have Canadian and American citizenship and took it back when it was offered, and my family's history and put it all downtown as a symbol of what it was possible to do in this country at a certain time. And it's also about other issues, about national identity, so there are many questions in place. But what I'd like to say, and we'll show the slides, is that whatever Frank has built, he's always improved that city or that country or that neighbourhood in some meaningful way. I have never seen him do damage. And my experience with him is that he's the easiest person in the world to work with if you know what you want as a client and can express it, and he will try to solve the problems, but he won't compromise and give you a bad building. DM: And so there is a limit to where you can push him. If you're trying to make what is now become known as the 'Made in Toronto' solution. CH: Here we have a picture of an earlier building one in Prague. Prague is an interesting city. Basically, an intact medieval... Basically a kind of an intact medieval city with very little intervention except on the outskirts of town which most of which were done during the soviet period and are therefore not especially attractive. But if you're wandering the streets of Prague, you suddenly come upon this intervention I suppose you could call it by Frank Gehry and the wonderful thing about it is that it shows the understanding he has of the existing built form of this city, but he plays with it in a very kind of happy way. CH: And the people there called it the Fred and Ginger. You can see why. This is the building... David said that Frank became famous when he did his own house. But I think he became a household name when he did this building at the Guggenheim in Bilbao in Spain, a truly extraordinary building. The most important building built in the last quarter of the 20th century, a century that was not especially generous in its architecture. A century that has a lot to apologize for that we have to deal with in ways that we don't necessarily want to have to do. But this is the great building I think that the 20th century went out on. A building that sort of broke down every pre-conception, every convention, every assumption ever made about architecture and showed that there was an entirely new way of doing things. CH: So to my mind, David says, "Yes, he has to make it work". Of course he has to make it work, but most developers don't bring Frank Gehry to town. Among other things, Frank Gehry is an expensive architect to hire. I don't think that's the point because I think that, yes, there is a commercial aspect to what David wants to do, but there's another whole level. There's a subtext to the Kings Street project and it's about the Mirvish family and it's about the Mirvish family's role in this city which goes back 60 or 70 years. And David's father "Honest Ed" as we all know was himself a great city builder. And I think that David has taken upon himself to take the spirit of his father and bring it to a new level, and to bring it into the 21st century. And this is the man that he wants to bring here to help him realize this. To my mind, this is a unique opportunity, literally a unique opportunity, one that Toronto has never had. CH: Now, it's true that Frank Gehry was brought to town to do the art gallery of Ontario and he did a great job. And it was in that job that he showed us that he is not just a sculptor, which he is, but that he's also a master of architecture because that space which is very restrained, very almost modest is all about the relationship between the rooms, how you move between rooms, how these rooms serve the art. It's an important thing to think about for a minute because Frank Gehry buildings tend to get more attention than the art that they exhibit especially this one here. But that's not true in the AGO. It becomes the kind of a building that after a while, you sort of assume because it's such an effortless building to navigate and to negotiate. I guess what I'm saying is that this man, Frank Gehry is a master and that's not to be forgotten. And that's not to be underestimated. CH: And if I may just go on for a second here. The Guggenheim that he did in Bilbao, it was a building that changed architecture. I shouldn't say this with Bob in the room, but when I started writing about architecture for the Toronto Star, they would run my column on page F35 in the days when there was a page F35. Now, it's entirely possible... Not often, but it is entirely possible; the story about architecture could be on the front page because it's gone mainstream. It's something that interests more people than it has ever and its because of this building more than any other in the world. And of course, this is the building that gave rise to the term, the Bilbao effect. CH: When this building was built, Bilbao was the Hamilton of Spain. Population of a half a million, a steel industry, boat building industry, both quickly going down the tubes and it was a city that had to reinvent itself in a hurry. And what it did was it decided to rely, to turn to the power of design and architecture and reinvent itself. And this is the building that almost single handedly accomplished exactly that. So, of course ever since, cities around the world have been in a race to get their Frank Gehry. To do for their cities what Bilbao did for itself. Nobody has quite achieved that yet. Nevertheless, his buildings attract enormous amounts of attention wherever they're constructed. CH: This was actually designed before Bilbao, but didn't get built until later so its never achieved the level of fame that Bilbao has. But you can see it's from that same period of Frank Gehry's work. This is our building. I don't think I need to say anything about it. You all know it. Why don't you talk about this one, David? DM: I don't know a great deal about this building, but just the idea that Las Vegas can have a building like this seems pretty exciting to me. And it's a new building, and I wanted to say that Frank is very active. He turns down, I think, six or seven projects for every one that he takes, because he has only so much time. He is 84 and he doesn't want to take time on buildings that won't get built. And he has maybe 15 buildings left in a lifetime and he wants to see them. So this is one that's completed recently. And this is one that's very interesting because... This is in Florida, but Frank has a very long and visceral relationship to music. And Michael Tilson Thomas is the head of this school for professional musicians. And they project the concert from inside of the building onto the lawn so that the public can hear it, if they can't buy a ticket. DM: And they also project movies. They do all sorts of things on the outside, their climate allows it. We're trying to figure out how in our neighbourhood we find more parks. Downtown, as we put more people in, one of the challenges is to make parks. And that was one of the things that have come out of the discussions we've had. We haven't got a solution yet. But the good part of these citizen discussion groups, when we started, we had planned four of them and we thought the last one would be yesterday, and that today I would be able to talk freely about what my project is. Instead, because we're making progress, because we have ideas, we're not in a position where we can talk freely because we're going to have one more meeting and we've delayed it to the 18th of this month. Which was going to be the public meeting. And everything will move back a month later for us. But if we can find a negotiated settlement amongst all of us to make the best building we can, and make the best city we can, it's always better to find a solution out of trying to find a way together, and not be imposed. DM: So sometimes, you have to go with the rhythm of what begins to happen. This is the building in 8 Spruce Street and that's the Brooklyn Bridge on the other side, which in my youth, people tried to sell me, I didn't buy it. When I got a little older, I actually, in 2002 went to London to buy a piece of sculpture by an Englishman named Anthony Caro and in the auction room they had a painting by Albert Gleizes which in the upper left-hand corner had Russian constructivism and the cables of this bridge were Italian futurism, and in the middle was Cubism, and when Gleizes had his first trip to America in 1915, and he painted a picture of the Brooklyn Bridge, so it was an American picture. So we had four different groups of art world people interested in this picture of Gleizes which now sits in my living room. CH: I guess the other thing we can talk about here is that Frank Gehry hasn't done a lot of towers. And this is one of the more recent ones, 2011, this is in the south end of Manhattan, you can see it from the high-line, it is one of the newest landmarks in New York. But you can see Frank Gehry at work here adapting his architectural vocabulary to a new form, the tall thin tower. Maybe we have another tower here, but I think this is the thing that would be unique about the Toronto project is that there are three towers. So I think that there's a possibility that this could be the most fully realized of Frank Gehry's tall projects, of his tower projects. That's an interesting thing, because we live in a world of high rises especially here in Toronto, there are more high rises under construction in this city than there are in any other city of North America, more than New York, more than Chicago, more than Mexico City. So we are remaking ourselves much to the chagrin of many Torontonians as a high rise city. And I think in a high rise city, this is what the dialogue architecturally is all about. That's what makes this project so especially interesting. CH: Other views of the same New York project. You can see how Frank Gehry is trying to introduce a sense of motion, a sense of movement into something which by the 1950s was already being declared the 'Boring Box'. By the 1970s when the city was dead, so was the tower. Not true. And I think that's what makes him so especially compelling is the way he manages to turn a static, we hope, piece of construction into something that has a sense of movement, of motion, as I say. This one I don't know. Do you want to talk about this? DM: Yes, this is a unique site in Hong Kong. It's 12 floors, each floor is an apartment in itself. The developer owned the particular piece of land and it is an apartment building that has had extraordinary success. The apartments in it are about 6,000 square feet and they've been furnished by Yabu Pushelberg, the model, which is an interior design company here in Toronto and they have sold them for $65 million a floor. What is interesting about all of this is that here is a place in China that now knows a great deal about Frank Gehry and it has a unique view of Hong Kong. DM: If you have a student going to U of T and you could buy them a small apartment, in an identifiable building, by an identifiable architect, you have some confidence that there will be interest in it in the world. What also is interesting is that what the late 20th century, and the beginning of the 21st has done, is it's allowed architects to use curves, to use shapes that never were available to them because of new technology and computers. And when I built the Princess of Wales Theatre, I had a wonderful architect in Peter Smith. The relationship between the audience and the actors is extraordinary, but we worked in two dimensions on paper and built in three dimensions. And we had over 2,500 change orders in the process of building the building. When you look at 8 Spruce Street, there were only eight change orders in the entire building and they all were in the skin and how the metal went together. DM: None of it was in the building because everything was designed in the computer in three dimensions and nobody ran electric wires through where the air conditioning ducts were or where the water pipes were. Nobody had to get off their ladder and rewire one thing on the other side of the building and come back. So, Frank has done something that he couldn't have done 40 years ago. The world is changing around us and this is the excitement. This is a new museum in the Bois de Boulogne. Didn't have to cut any trees to do it. It opens in November, is for Bernard Arnault who is head of Louis Vuiton and many other brands, and it's essentially a glass pavilion that houses a building because in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris you aren't allowed to build buildings, you are only allowed to build glass pavilions and so the cloud sits in the pavilion. And it was built to say that Paris is a city of culture and is interested in what goes on all over the world and it's got a year's programming that is international and is meant to draw visitors from all over the world to the city of Paris. DM: And this is the building at Abu Dubai that is not yet done, but should be in 2017. And Berlin has just announced this in the last week: The tallest building in Berlin, a new residential tower that they've given to Gehry over a number of other famous international architects. There also is a project I couldn't show you, but they're re-doing the Battersea Power Station in London, which is an even larger station than the Tate Modern and Norman Foster's office is doing one side along the building and Gehry is doing five different separate residential towers, of a total of 3,500 apartments, next to that with views of the Thames and views of the Station. They'll transform the south side. And so this is where we evolved to, and each tower is individual. This is a very much evolving projected program and, Frank said, "I draw in models, I don't draw in the page", and there will probably be 75 models before we actually come to the final place. We are at about model 40, so you'll see this as an expressive drawing that's close to what we want to build, but it's not exactly it. CH: So David, if we're looking at this picture from left to right, we're looking north onto King Street, aren't we? DM: Yes. CH: So, there are three towers here, obviously: 82, 84, 86, storey something like that? DM: Yes. CH: A total of 2700 units. One of the things that we haven't talked about very much, I don't mean here tonight, but in the big discussion that we've been having over the last few months, and I think it's an extremely important point here, is that this project, is complex with 2700 units comes with something like 300 parking spots and 300 spaces to leave your bicycle. Sorry 2000, 300 parking spots for cars, 2000 parking spots for bicycles. Now that is a big thing to keep in mind as I say. There's something happening here beyond the architecture itself and there's something going on here. There's an attempt being made to try to position this building as one that anticipates the future of this city. CH: It doesn't depend on antiquated parking requirements that go back to the 1960s and the '70s. There's one building now in the city under construction on University Avenue, the Royal Military College thing. And it has no parking at all. It has nine spots for people being dropped off and pick-ups and things like that. The people who live in this building will not own a car that they can park at their building. And the interesting thing is that when this building was proposed, who objected to it? It was the city. This is the city that tells us at least before Rob Ford was elected. This was a city that told us that the future lay with transit this... The future was bicycles. The future was pedestrianism. The future was transit that we had to try to get people out of cars. We had to get people moving around in other ways. CH: Now I know this all changed when Rob Ford got elected. Nevertheless he will come and he will go. He will become a bad memory. And the city will carry on. [applause] CH: It's true. The city will carry on and realize its glorious future or not. But part of that future has to be our ability to deal with the car. And so we're gonna talk about this. So I think that this building, this complex is an important one in that it, as I say, goes beyond the car. And proposes a new way of living downtown. Not just in terms of the architecture, but in terms of how it would be inhabited. I think this is hugely important because after all we don't want to just build empty landmarks. Buildings that people stare at and walk on. But buildings that can be inhabited by real people living in the real city in the 21st century. So as David said, the thing to keep in mind here is that this is a work in progress. And I think David we have to deal now with some of the issues that the city has raised because this is a... This is a awkward site in the sense that there are three heritage warehouses. Three early 20th century. DM: Four. CH: Four, sorry, four. Four warehouses from the earlier 20th century plus the Princess of Wales which David built what 18, 19, 20 years ago. And it's a busy part of town. So... Disappearing on you? How about that? I'm so sorry. So the city has a number of big issues. What becomes of these heritage sites? Do they stay? Do they go? Do they get incorporated in the final design? And also what happens at ground level? The ground level although Torontonians will be fixated on the height, and these are tall buildings, the most important part is what happens at the street level? And that's I think also where David has some very interesting ideas. Some ideas that take this from the realm of the ordinary into the extraordinary. And David that's what I want you to talk about. DM: Well I think if you think about the neighbourhood. It's complicated. We're going to plan a building now and we're going to build it and it will take five to 10 years from the beginning to the end. 'Til it's fully up and all of the project is complete. And when it's done it's set in stone. Literally. It's a portrait of who we were and what our aspirations were in that moment. Now, we've evolved enormously as a city. In 1963 you could have tore anything in the city down and people did. And if we had the rules we had today, you can't complete... Planning is trying to manage something. Planning Department is doing their best, within what they've been given. And the problem they've been given is different than what existed when the Toronto-Dominion Bank was built. DM: The Toronto-Dominion Bank was built at a time when we didn't have these historic rules. And when my father bought the Royal Alex, everyone who wanted to buy it, wanted to make a parking lot out of it. And when my father decided to keep it as a theatre, that's when the owners were sympathetic to him and that's when he did it and he restored it. And it jogged people. And it made them think maybe we should be saving some of our heritage and some of our great buildings. But when TD was built, you were able to take down a great bank building and give a job to Mies van der Rohe who gave you a greater bank building. DM: And that doesn't exist now. Because we decided to protect our older buildings. And we decided to protect them in a manner where we don't grade them. So my warehouse which is now being a listed... Not a listed but now a, what is the next stage? CH: Designated. DM: Designated building, is in the same category as our Osgoode Hall. Now warehouses have value and some of them have more value than others amongst the warehouses. But if you look back at the history of the site where the warehouses are was once a beautiful school which was the first Upper Canada College building. And why did that get torn down? And what was on the south side of the street? It was the Ontario Provincial Legislature, if you look at pictures of that building that got torn down, that was bought by the railways in 1912, and they stored their trains there, and they built warehouses to the north, at the expense of great buildings that disappeared. And this neighbourhood was not supposed to grow, and then a merchant came along by accident who knew nothing about theatre, and he didn't know that you were supposed to stay closed when you're losing money. He thought going to the theatre was a habit, and therefore, if wasn't open every week, people would forget to go. So, he kept the place open and it meant people in the neighbourhood could open restaurants and depend on traffic, and so, we began to move away from warehouses back into the public realm. DM: So, the goal of... Over the next 40 years, this area ended up building hotels. It ended up building Metro Hall. It ended up building Roy Thomson Hall, and it came back to the public, and there are many warehouses of real merit to the north of us that still exist. But the city has a dilemma because they have designated buildings, and they've never allowed a designated building to be torn down without some part of it being incorporated into the plans of a new building, and, ironically, warehouses are being built in cities all over North America today, but if you say, "How many live theatres have been build?" There are only four that I know of in all of North America that have been built commercially in the last 50 years. DM: The Princess of Wales was the first of them, and then Livent, the theatre in New York where Spider Man was playing, and then they did a theatre in Vancouver, and then, I forget the name of the company that built the Panasonic, but another entity. And they built it for Blue Man. Those are the only four commercial theatres that have ever been built. So, I'm allowed to tear down the Princess of Wales. It's not designated even though it's a very distinguished architect with a great artist's work inside who when I did the deal knew that that building was temporary, would only last 10 years because that was the original intention. It was built to house Miss Saigon, and so, he's accepting of me tearing it down, but, in fact, would you take away Frank Stella and would you take away an extraordinary relationship between an actor and the audience in preference to preserving warehouses? DM: It's a real dilemma, and, of course, that was the real problem for me. Do I give that up in order to give Frank Gehry the best possible building he could do? And so, that's something I've always struggled with even though I don't need the building in terms of numbers of weeks I do of theatre. Last year I did 100 weeks with four buildings. So, I was 50% filled. This coming year I'll do 133. So, I can do all my theatre and never diminish any of my theatre activity and still lose one of my buildings, but I don't really wanna lose that building. And yet, I have to sacrifice it if I wanna do something great long term. So, those are some of the dilemmas you're facing. CH: Let's talk for a second about this business of the city's position on heritage and we all understand how important heritage is. And we understand, also, that the city, although it professes to want to save heritage, more often than not is quite willing to cut a deal which means that the developer will incorporate one or two facades of an old building into the front of a new building. It's happened in... There are probably dozens of examples in the city. They call it façadism or they call it facectomies, or facadomies. DM: Or the 'Made in Toronto' solution. CH: Yes. Another 'Made in Toronto'... There's a good example happening right now on the southeast corner of King and Sherbourne, where one of the original roadhouses... People would in those days, in the mid 19th century, enter the city if they were coming from the east along King and stay at these sort of basically these inns. So, this is a mid 19th century, quite a lovely little building, neoclassical, which is becoming the north and west facade of a glass tower called the 'Bow House'. To my mind this is... This gives us the worst of both worlds. This doesn't save heritage in any meaningful way, and it compromises even a mediocre architect's attempts to do something worthwhile in the modern idiom. So, I guess the question here is we have four warehouses of interesting architectural heritage certainly worth keeping. Certainly the city would like to have them, but are we talking about the heritage of now or are we talking about the heritage of a century from now? CH: Is it worth... If you have an opportunity to have something designed by Frank Gehry, is it worth it in that particular case? My argument is based on the assumption, which I state frankly and openly, that I think he is a great architect and therefore worth giving a blank slate. It's worth giving a blank slate to him because I want him to do something that he hasn't done. And I don't know if it was clear, but he was born and raised in this city. And although he's done the AGO, it was more or less an addition and a renovation, not a free standing sculpture as he would put it. And so it's a painful decision to make it and the loss, it will be felt, although in some cases buildings have been moved, buildings have been dismantled and reassembled. It couldn't be too difficult in a situation like this. But surely the point is not to go to a Frank Gehry and say, "Well, we'd like you to somehow incorporate the facades of these early 20th century warehouses into your building", which defeats the whole purpose as far as I am concerned of having a Frank Gehry. On the other hand, do we allow them to go? The city hasn't been able to make up its mind. CH: The city has also expressed concern about David Mirvish's motivation and the city planner has talked about the developer in this case, pulling the old quote "Bait and switch", which I think represents a pretty profound misunderstanding of what's going on here and why this is going on. And it would seem to me that it's really important for our Planning Department to be able to bring a bit of subtlety and a bit of nuance to its decisions. Now, to be fair to the Planning Department that's not possible in the governance situation that we have here. And the spectre that hovers over all planning in this city and every other community in this province, as you all know, is the Ontario Municipal Board. Because ultimately it's the OMB that's gonna make this decision, not our Planning Department. CH: Now there are many people who would say that's a good thing, because if left it up to those guys at City Hall, God help us. On the other hand, if the Planning Department is ever going to grow up, if it's ever going to get mature, acquire some sophistication at some point, it has to start making decisions and being able to accept responsibility for those decisions. We're not at that point yet. And I don't know exactly know what point we're at yet and this is where David is going to say something that, he's gonna advance the story for us. DM: It's a great challenge, it's a great challenge for all of us because it's a portrait of who we are in a given moment. If we build less than the very best we can build, we won't challenge the TD Building and we don't know if Frank can give us as good a building as that banking hall which is a great masterpiece. We've had 50 years to look at and know it is great, but if we start out with our hands tied and we have to stick something on the front of the building and have you not see Frank at the ground, and you'll alter it and prevent the architecture because of the present rules, then it may not be worth doing. And so that's a consideration we have to think about it. But you can't blame Planning. DM: What has happened, is the city doesn't have the ability to say "No" and therefore they can't say "Yes" and I'll explain how that works. I want to build a very tall building. TIFF built a tall building. TIFF is Toronto International Film Festival gave a great benefit in the base. And then they took what they needed in order to build it and they built the tallest building in the neighbourhood. And the next person who came along and wanted to build something around that height was able to do it by going to the OMB and not giving the same benefit and saying the precedent for height sits there. So now Planning is faced with, "how do they give us 80 storeys and not have five more 80-storey buildings follow us. And it's because they can't say "No" to a building because someone can always go and appeal at OMB that they can't say "Yes" to a building without setting precedent. And that's the same problem with tearing a building down that's already designated. So they've never allowed a designated building to be torn down because they don't want to give that precedent to OMB. These are both real problems and proper consideration. DM: The question is, how do you deal with merit? How do you raise the bar without losing control? And we have to find that creative solution and so we're struggling with it as we better understand the problems. And ironically, it's a laughable problem. But when you have an 80-storey building and you have four people with small dogs in every floor, you've 300 dogs going to the bathroom. What do you do with it? Well there happen to be dog toys that you can give with every apartment if you want to. There are places where you can walk if you pick up after your dog. There are solutions and there are ways of making some of the streets Downtown closed off at certain times for festivals and activities that have to do with living because we're creating living neighbourhoods Downtown. DM: There are solutions to all of it, but we need a lot of thought and consideration and we need to find the solution if we cannot through the OMB, but through talking to each other and that's why we ended up postponing our last meeting because we feel there are worthy conversations still worth holding. The premise of this building was to make the first six floors active for people who didn't live in the building, or anyone in the public to wanna come and to create a destination and to create a heart to the Downtown living section of this city. The Entertainment District now has more and more residential. And then we took whatever density we needed to pay for all that public activity. There are three five-star hotels in our neighbourhood. There is no upscale shopping. There is no quality department stores. DM: If you think of Toronto, and then you think of other great cities we only have one shopping area which is Bloor & Yonge. If you go to London and you stand on Waterloo Bridge as I did two weeks ago and you look at the 20 cranes in the sky, and you look at the Shard and Gherkin and the Mushroom and the four other great buildings all being built in London in a city that once didn't allow anything to be taller than St. Paul's, you realize that you're in a vibrant living city. If you go to Paris which I love with its great boulevards and broad streets and you realize that it's turning into Venice and in 50 years from now may be a destroyed city who's at war in it's suburbs, you have to think about type of city you want to grow into the future. DM: At the beginning of the 20th century Milan and London and Paris and Berlin were all equal cities. They didn't end up in the same place at the end of the 20th century. So those are the questions that we're faced with. If you wanna go a little further back and think of Julius II, the pope who turned to Bramante and decided to rebuild St. Peter's that was the third version of St. Peter's the one we live with today. And he picked an architect who was 65-years-old. He never made it to the end, but he did have a backup team of Michelangelo to get the dome on. CH: There is hope. And maybe on that note we should open this discussion up to you and maybe you have some questions. There is a microphone. S?: Sorry. S?: Here's the microphone. S?: You have to hold the little button. S?: The stand is right here. I'm just gonna deliver it and we're good to go. [pause] S?: Hi there, I must say I do come to a lot of the Star Talks and it was... I don't mean to cause ruffles, but I must say that I would have liked to hear more from Mr. Mirvish. But my one question though is with regards to this project what are you putting the odds on in terms of it going ahead? DM: I'm sorry I couldn't hear you. S?: What do you think the prospect, like the odds of this actually happening? Do you think that it's actually in serious jeopardy that it won't go ahead? DM: On discouraging days, I have these talks with Frank and we look at each other and we say "What are we doing to our lives", and then we look at each other and we say "We're trying to do our best and let's keep going because we have something to do that will make a difference". And so, I would say the odds are good. That we will build something of distinction, but it may not be where we started and we don't know where it'll go and we will fight to the end and will have to be defeated so that we're a piece of history even if it's not built. [applause] S?: Hello good evening. My name is Véronique and interesting I was talking about something that you just touched on David, last minute, Paris. I'm from Paris, this decaying city. CH: [laughter] Except for the Bois de Boulogne. S?: Well, the Bois de Boulogne is going to be nice because it's not a high-rise. What I wanted to tell you is that I still live in Toronto in a building that I find human because it's 20 floors. So I go to my neighbours to ask for, "Sorry, do you have an egg? Do you have some flour?". And they come to me and they say, "You know what I don't have a vase, or do you have this, do you have that?". This is the kind of building I want to live in, that's what I lived in all my childhood. S?: In those buildings I think you're creating mental illness. I'm sorry to tell you, but people don't know each other. In those buildings, Mr. Hume, I'm so happy you're here tonight, because you talk about architecture, you don't talk about the mental state of people who live in those, [French word], those holes, where no one cares, no one knows their neighbour. They go into the elevators, wait forever for the elevator, go up and down, up and down. Nobody is... You talk about real people, I don't think that these are real people, these are robots. They go out of their apartment, they go down to the basement to the parking lot... CH: May I jump in? S?: Yes. CH: Okay. 'Cause I think that, that's... We're talking about greater density in cities and about living in apartment buildings. When I first got married, I lived on the 18th floor of an apartment building and I only knew two of my neighbours. I live in a house in the village now, and I only know one of my neighbours. Okay. When I visit London, I went to visit one of my employees who lived in Wimbledon, and we came in on the train and nobody talked to anybody. And I turned to him and I said, "Don't you all know each other? Don't you all ride this same train every day?". He said, "Yes, we do, David. We wouldn't talk to each other. What if we got into an argument, we'd have to ride the train together again". [laughter] S?: Well, you're talking about British people. [laughter] CH: No, but these are people. And so, how do we humanize these buildings? Because it's absolutely true, we wanna know our grocer, and we wanna know the people who service us, who we service, who we interact with, and these buildings have to be built with a sensitivity. And that's why I started the whole conversation by saying, these two women who live in apartments in 8 Spruce Street gave me hope because they found that the buildings didn't box them in. I just came from the Tadao Ando Museum in Fort Worth and it had very high ceilings and high walls, but the ceilings were flat. And when I went into the Moneo Building in Houston and the skylights went up, same size walls, but the light came pouring in, it was a whole different experience. I'm counting on Frank making every bit of this building human. That's more important than anything else. If we're going to live tightly packed together, we'd better find a way to do it that makes us feel we have our own personal space and we have the opportunity to be with other people. And so the facilities in these buildings have to be good. DM: One of the interesting things, you say you're from Paris, you read about Paris in the 19th century and one of its great gifts to humanity was anonymity. It was anonymity that allowed people to wander the streets, whether they were rich or poor, or aristocratic or whatever, and gave a kind of a democracy, and a freedom and a sense of liberation that the cities had never had before; where everybody had their place. Everybody was assigned a role at birth even. And so I understand what you're saying, the need for community, but I think one of the great, great things about a city is the fact that we are anonymous. Nobody knows who we are. We can be whatever we want. We can invent ourselves every day if we feel like doing so. That's something that should never be underestimated. [applause] S?: Okay, but my question was going to be, how do you make them more human, and what you're saying is that you prefer anonymity? DM: It's a strange combination. Humans are so complicated. S?: Yes, they are. Thanks a lot. [chuckle] [applause] S?: I actually do want to make a comment about that because I live on the 33rd floor and I think I am not mentally ill. [laughter] [applause] S?: And I have a wonderful life. And I totally commend you and what you're doing, David, I'm a cheerleader, absolutely, all the way. I have a question about the theatre. I come from the theatre, myself... CH: Speak up! S?: Hello? Is that better? CH: Better. S?: Okay. Is there, has there been any discussion, is it physically possible, is there a desire, could it add benefit, as you say you need, to include a theatre in what you're doing? So that you basically reinvent the Princess of Wales? DM: Not in this project because... It's a very complicated question. We have many empty seats, theatre seats, in the city. We have them sometimes when we're open, which is the worst. [laughter] DM: But, we even have them when we're closed. The Sony Centre is not used to capacity. The Elgin and Winter Garden are not used to capacity. And this is a good thing, not a bad thing. Sometimes people are upset and say, "Well it's a burden and we should not have these buildings". We should have these buildings because you can't replace them easily. That's the challenge for me. I did build this building, I know how to do it, I can do it again if I ever need it, I have lots of buildings to fill before I need it, but that's not the point. This theatre is great. This theatre has had great performances. I've just had 18 weeks of almost sold out business for Les Miserables, on its way to Broadway. DM: That's 270,000 people in the last 18 weeks, who went to the theatre, and I am not happy to lose the building. All of Frank's early plans lost the warehouses and kept the theatre, and we still couldn't make it as good as if we let the theatre go. And so I said, "Frank, give me the best, you can do. I am not going to tie your hands and tell you, you have to keep the theatre". Now I am rethinking everything because I've gone through a process where there is a lot of interesting discussion. I may not, in the end, be able to keep it, and I don't need it for business reasons, I can do all the theatre I am doing. And I'm doing more theatre today than I ever did because I am invested in theatre all over the world. I've just had a four-week run at the American Repertory Theatre in Harvard, of a new musical that will eventually get here. So there are many, many things going on in the theatre that I am more and more involved with. I don't know what to do with this. S?: Can you imagine going to a Frank Gehry building theatre, that just might also increase people coming. DM: It's another approach. S?: I would love to walk into that theatre. DM: I am not rich enough. [laughter] DM: He just did one in New York, the Signature Theatre for a not-for-profit and it's great, and you can see a Frank Gehry theatre if you visit New York and go to Signature 'cause they do great things. And someday if I am successful with this, I'd love to do more with Frank. S?: Thank you. DM: Thank you. [applause] S?: If I can quote Baudelaire "la forme d'une ville. Change plus vite, hélas! Que le coeur d'un mortel" and he wrote that ironically in the 19th century when what we considered to be characteristically Paris designed by Baron Haussmann developed. Everybody's image of Paris has something to do with the master planner and that the great boulevards and what he developed. Now... So in my mind every city has a character and in Toronto, I'm an ex New Yorker, who has lived here for 40, 50 years. For me this city is the city of neighbourhoods. It's the city of Forest Hill, of Rosedale, of... You know, innumerable neighbourhoods. And this is counter-neighbourhood, and I haven't heard the word beautiful either. You could say weird, exciting, different, but beautiful? I don't know. In any case can you comment on how this is counter-neighbourhood, and in a sense counter-Toronto? DM: Let me ask a question, which neighbourhood do you live in? S?: The Annex. DM: The Annex. Okay, so that's a very different neighbourhood. It's a great neighbourhood. S?: It's a wonderful neighbourhood. DM: Yeah, and it has its character. I am living in a neighbourhood now of many residential buildings. It didn't exist that way when we started. When it started it had railway cars stored across the street, and we went to the city in '63 and we said, "May we plant trees, so we don't have to look at that?", and they said, "Not on our land". Okay. So that's my memory of this neighbourhood that has transformed itself. S?: By characteristically putting in trees, trees, Toronto... Toronto equals trees, right? Neighbourhoods full of trees, wonderful trees. Those aren't trees. DM: Yes that was in 1963, but today this neighbourhood has many high-rise apartment buildings and many of them are not of a quality that I think would do us honour. And I'd like to see the bar raised, and there is an aesthetic question here, and I know that you don't find these beautiful from your comment. But that is something that none of us really know yet. We're going to find out, but these buildings will be livable and I believe they will be more livable than what we have seen so far with high-rise buildings. [applause] S?: Hello? Hello. I was gonna ask about the density that you are providing. About how many people are gonna be living in these buildings? CH: About how many people are gonna be living in the buildings? Yeah? DM: There are 2700 apartments between three towers. There are five office buildings being planned in the neighbourhood, and it is thought that 60% of the people who live here will be able to walk to work within 10 minutes. What we are noticing in apartment buildings in New York, and we are looking five years out to 10 years, is that buildings that have parking spaces in New York are finding the spaces empty and people, places where they have bicycles, they don't have enough places for bicycles. The density of it is a question about sewer systems, power systems. This is the one neighbourhood that in the ice storm didn't lose power. It has the power in the neighbourhood to run itself, and they're building a new power station south of us. DM: So the actual ability to build it, this is the equivalent of building five, 50-storey buildings, so you are building a three 80-storey buildings. In terms of hitting these systems, you actually have to connect five times, which is more of a strain on the system than putting three connections in. So this is all technical and we've spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to get the answers to those technical questions, and basically you have to decide, is this neighbourhood totally built out at this point, therefore should have no more buildings? Or the 15 buildings that are still on the boards right now for this neighbourhood, can they be accommodated? And that's really a planning question that has not been answered, but has been asked for the last two years. S?: Okay, what it is, is with the traffic, a lot of things are... It's not just people travelling in cars, but it's also delivery and moving and delivery vehicles for businesses. And I don't think the neighbourhood could take these 80-storey buildings without a subway along either Queen Street or King Street. Have you considered that possibility in talking with city planning? DM: I'm not in that department, I wish they'd built the Queen Street subway 30 years ago, 40 years ago, we have all sorts of transportation challenges that should be dealt with. It's the most important thing this city can do. I think there are things that can be done on King Street in terms of narrowing the lanes, and putting it more towards the street cars. You could consider doing a street car one way on Richmond and one way on Adelaide, and moving them off of King Street. There are all sorts of traffic ideas that can be considered. I think that these buildings help to raise those questions. But I don't really think they're gonna put the big stress on the lines. The stress comes from people at the other ends coming into the area, and having to cross the area. Most of these people are gonna be in the area using the facilities that are there. S?: Okay. S?: Yeah, you've touched on the parking, that's what I'm curious about. Only 300 spaces, I assume these are not inexpensive condos, and I would also think you also have family units. We live in a society that likes their cottages, like to get out to the country, just like their cars, and wondered if you can turn... What you can do about that sort of thing? DM: We could build better cities; we could do a lot of things. This last power storm, that we had, the ice storm, if we'd spent our money burying the power lines, we wouldn't be spending our money repairing them all the time. It's an endless business for the cars. The car companies want us to keep growing out into suburbs. When I visited Houston, I couldn't believe what goes on as to why they don't take care of the Downtown. They have an industry that is against all of these things. And cities are going to have new challenges in the 21st century that are going to be enormous. Because China by 2020 is going to move 400 million people off the land into cities because it's easier to educate people in that situation and to feed them. DM: So we look at the car now the way we use it and five to 10 years from now we'll go out in the country, we'll rent a car to go out for that trip. And that will make a lot of savings in terms of how we waste product and how we waste our time in cars. Spending an hour to get to work is an idiot of an idea, and most of my staff has to do it right now. So, I just have a different view of the world I guess, I may be wrong, who knows? TS: It'll be interesting to see. CH: It is interesting how the terms of the debate affect the outcome? The kinds of questions that we've had tonight are based on an assumption, clearly erroneous, fanciful, that living in a high rise makes you crazy, that somehow living in a high rise induces mental illness, living anywhere... Living out in the country can induce mental illness; it's not the high rise per se. And that somehow the fact that the storey, the buildings are 80 storey tall, somehow adds a kind of density to the neighbourhood, that we can't cope with because of transit, because there is too much parking, because there isn't enough parking, because there are too many people, because the people aren't getting around the right way. This is basically all nonsense. Because the people want to live in the city, and that's the only reason why we're sitting here tonight. CH: That's the only reason why David Mirvish is thinking about doing this, and that's the only reason why Frank Gehry has been asked to do it, to design it. And it seems to me that what we need to do, what the planning department needs to do and hasn't done, because it's very concerned with issues, rightly so, of governance and setting a precedent which is the spectre that hangs over them, is to figure out how to make it work. Now, some of the proposals, some of the answers to that might not be the kind of things people want to hear. CH: For example, perhaps we would close off King Street to vehicular traffic. Maybe we would have deliveries made between midnight and 6 o'clock in the morning. There are all kinds of things that we've never thought about in this city that could be done and eventually will be done if we're going to prosper and so on and so forth in the future, which is not a given thing, which is not an assumption we can make. But if we keep on asking these same old questions, would it make anybody happier if the towers were 60 storey tall and there was parking for 500 cars? Would that solve the problem? Of course not, of course not. Would people be less insane if they lived on the 20th floor than if they lived on the 80th floor? These are clearly absurd positions that people have gotten themselves into. CH: And so I think that it would be very helpful, very helpful if we sort of address these issues thoughtfully. And I would also point out that there are no end of people who are prepared to fight, sometimes almost violently over a 60-storey building, a six-storey building. There's one big fight going on, a six storey condo that would fit... Would occupy the site of a used car lot. Somehow this is gonna destroy a neighbourhood. So I have to say my experience tells me that I don't take all these arguments seriously. CH: The other thing I would point out is almost all these buildings are full. The one up at Eglinton and Yonge built back in the early 2000s, the Minto project which galvanized north Toronto, roused north Toronto from its historical slumber. It's the best thing to happen to the corner of Yonge and Eglinton in 40 years and who lives there very happily? Our former Mayor, the tiny perfect man himself David Crombie. So I think that when we hear these kinds of things that people say we can nod and say "Thank you, next question please", and get down to the real issue. Wouldn't it be exciting for this city to have something designed by the man considered by many to be the greatest architect alive today? A man who was born and raised in this city, who has yet to do a project worthy of his talent in this city. That's what interests me. [Applause] TS: No I just wanted to sort of... I love living in Downtown Toronto and I think lots of people do. But I also love getting out to the county and it will be interesting to see if we can change people's thinking to rent cars. I'll be interested in seeing once your place goes up whether that happens. CH: Me too! BH: We have time for a couple more questions. S?: Well Mr. Hume I think you're gonna be happy. First of all can I just... I do have a question about the use of the public space, but perhaps I'm the only one in the room, but when I look at that, when I've looked at that from the very beginning through the various stages, it takes my breath away. I think it is not only beautiful I think it's ethereal. I think it's exactly what this city needs. [applause] TS: So in a personal time of transition I've been debating, do I wanna live in this city? Is this city ready to embrace itself and what it says it wants to be? And this is the city that I want to live in. So it's funny in the Star, which I'm a avid reader of and Mr. Hume I read your column all the time, but I think this summed up perfectly how people are opposing this project. So there is an article, I forget which section, and it said, "Does Toronto really need another art museum?", and it was referencing the use of part of the public space to house your personal collection. And right below it was a huge banner ad that said, "Culture Days, come out and support Toronto culture". So it was these opposing views. So can you talk a little bit about the art space and the planned art gallery in the space? CH: There's so many ways to go about creating a meaningful art museum. I'm wrestling with it at the moment. My original plan was very grand and in order to be that grand these buildings had to be very grand because that was what was going to pay for it and support it. I am beginning to look at other models, which I see all over the world and I've just come back from Houston. I've spent some time with the Menil collection which is an extraordinary surrealist collection, they have a Lee Bontecou show and a Magritte show about to open. The Museum of Fine Art there has a big Brock show from the Rom Palais. There are many things going on. CH: And one of the models that's interesting is Dia Foundation, which took a space and created a place for single artists in Lower Manhattan and then they multiplied it by finding other spaces they could do that. The real crux of what my collection's about is it defines the last half of the 20th century in terms of abstraction. And abstraction is a 100 years old now, maybe more, but it's a complicated language and there's still some misunderstanding of its nature. We've come to accept Rothko, because there are two places in America that championed them, this is Dominique de Menil built the Chapel in Houston and the Phillips Collection formed a room that Rothko set up, himself. CH: And that burnt Rothko into our memory, because we were able to go into his own space, where his language prevailed. Clyfford Still was very upset with the idea of his pictures being hung with other artists' work and wouldn't give his paintings until one city committed to build a museum only for him and they did eventually, in Denver. I have about 10 artists, that I've collected in depth over 50 years, and what I've essentially said to Frank was, give me a street with 10 museums on it and a town square where I can invite out the proper pictures for the proper discussion of some given moment when they share something. CH: But I want you to be able to see those artist in depth. Most of these artists are from big countries. Now, we're a small country. And when I think of small countries, I think of Copenhagen and Denmark, and an artist named Vilhelm Hammershoi, whom most of you, I suspect, have never heard of. And Hammershoi, showed with Degas, who was a close friend, with the impressionists, but he dies in 1916. Degas creates a great show in Moscow, in 1910, but the Danes, Denmark doesn't take care of him till 1983, when they begin to promote him internationally. And a couple years ago there was a big show in Munich, and we've begun to know about him again. CH: Then, I think of Oslo in Norway and they have a great artist, though they're a small country and they have Edvard Munch, we all know who Edvard Munch is. This country produced a great artist in the time when Noland, and Louis, and Frankenthaler, and Motherwell, and Olitski were there and his name is Jack Bush. He's been dead since 1976. I believe if we don't defend him, because we are a small country, you can't expect other countries to defend him. And so we have to put him in the context of his peers with his own place, so you can see if he's as good as those other artist, or maybe even better. CH: And then, I believe we have an Edvard Munch in our company, but we won't know it until we put him out. The encyclopedic museums cannot do that job. They have to keep changing what they do and they have to keep doing big shows to pay for 300 guards. We can't do the intimate small intellectual show and expect people to come. There was a great Swedish show, last year, from the Menil, but only 5,000 people would've come if we'd brought i to Toronto. So it never came here. It was a show called the American Vanguard, it never got here, it created a context for all this art. So what I was hoping and whether it develops in this project or partially in this project and expands in other ways is, I'll be 70 in August, so I only have so much time. I don't intend to work more 25 years before I retire. [laughter] CH: And I would like to help find a way to create that context over those 25 years, so that people can see these things. And when I was growing up, museums were free, you didn't pay to go to art museums. And I think that's part of our education and understanding who we are and defining ourselves. So I'd like to try to find a way to make it as free as possible. I might not achieve everything I want, I'd like to give everyone the chance to see each of these people in their own context, in their own language. So that's the goal. TS: I think that's a beautiful thing, thank you. [Applause] S?: I think this may be the last question. And, make it good. [laughter] S?: Alright. I think it'll be good. I'm Imad, I moved to Toronto, the Downtown core about eight months, so I'm unsure if that makes me a Torontonian, yet. Frank Gehry is not one of my favourite architects, but I have to admit that he does craft beautiful and very elegant objects. And by looking at the model here, it's very evident that it's quite an elegant object, but I still need to be convinced about the architecture about it yet. And one of the things that I'd like to touch up on, and if you could maybe address that is, the idea of sustainability. TS: And I know that you're talking a lot about building for our time and being in our time and building for the greatness of this city, but one of the things that we're facing, and not just in Toronto, but everywhere else, is this idea of climate change and environmental difficulties, and most importantly, today with all these new technologies, the role that architecture can do to address these issues. So I'm wondering if the building is touching upon that, in terms of materials, or in terms of the way that it's constructed, or the way of the mechanicals, how its gonna work, or because we hired Frank Gehry, that what's the point of talking about these things. [chuckle] CH: There's a reason Frank's great; it's not the look. The problem with some of Frank's clients is that they say to him, "I want it to look like a Frank Gehry building". I want it to function and so does Frank and Frank was involved with sustainability before it ever became an issue. He builds with concrete which is quite different than the glass walls that you see in many of our... Those green glass walls that don't have the same type of insulation in it. There's a lot of consciousness. I'm not going to be... I'm not the technical expert, but it's always at the front of the issues if you want a building that's going to last long into the future and be a symbol for what I want to achieve. And that's one of the problems we probably will have to charge a $100 a foot more than other apartments of the same size in order to deliver architecture and sustainability, but they're both important issues. TS: Okay. Let's hope it's not gonna leak. [chuckle] CH: Thank you very much. Thank you David. [applause] DM: Thank you Chris.



Early life in Manchester

Norman Foster was born to Robert Foster and Lilian Smith[4] in 1935 in Reddish, Stockport, Cheshire. They moved, soon after his birth, two miles to 4 Crescent Grove in Levenshulme, Manchester, where they lived in poverty:[5] Foster has no recollection of Reddish.[4] Foster's parents were diligent, hard workers – so diligent that Foster, as an only child, felt their heavy workload restricted his relationship with them and he was often looked after by neighbours or other family members.[6] He attended Burnage Grammar School for Boys in Burnage. In a Guardian interview in 1999, Foster said he always felt 'different' at school and was bullied, he retired into the world of books.[7] He considered himself quiet and awkward in his early years often making faux pas.[8]

Alfred Waterhouse's Manchester Town Hall, where Foster worked as a junior clerk
Alfred Waterhouse's Manchester Town Hall, where Foster worked as a junior clerk

Foster described Manchester as "one of the workshops of the world"[7] and "the embodiment of a great city",[9] his father, Robert, worked at Metropolitan-Vickers, Trafford Park which fuelled Foster's interest in engineering and design.[7] He was fascinated with engineering and the process of designing. He says that caused him to pursue a career designing buildings.[10] Specific interests included aircraft, a hobby he maintains today;[10] and trains, generated by viewing passing trains on the railway outside his terraced home during his childhood.[10]

Foster's father convinced him to take the entrance exam for Manchester Town Hall's trainee scheme[11] which he passed in 1951 and took a job as an office junior in the Treasurer's Department.[11] A colleague, Mr Cobb's son, was studying architecture and his interest led to Foster considering a career in architecture.[12] After working in the Manchester City Treasurer's office, Foster completed his National Service in 1953 serving in the Royal Air Force, a choice inspired by his passion for aircraft.[13]

Foster returned to Manchester, not wanting to return to the town hall as his parents wished and unsure of which path to follow.[14] Foster was searching for a world away from his working-class roots which led to the alienation of his parents.[15]


Foster lecturing in 2001
Foster lecturing in 2001
Foster ventured around Manchester observing buildings. The art deco Express Building in Manchester was a building that intrigued him.
Foster ventured around Manchester observing buildings. The art deco Express Building in Manchester was a building that intrigued him.

Foster took a job as assistant to a contract manager with John Bearshaw and Partners, a local architectural practice. [16] The staff advised him, that if he wished to become an architect, he should prepare a portfolio of drawings using the perspective and shop drawings from Bearshaw's practice as an example.[17] Bearshaw was so impressed with the drawings that he promoted the young Foster to the drawing department of the practice.[18]

In 1956 Foster won a place at the University of Manchester School of Architecture and City Planning. Foster was not eligible for a maintenance grant so took up a number of part-time jobs to fund his studies,[19] becoming an ice-cream salesman, night-club bouncer[19] and working night shifts at a bakery to make crumpets.[7] He combined these with self-tuition via visits to the local library in Levenshulme.[20] Foster took a keen interest in the works of Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Oscar Niemeyer and graduated from Manchester in 1961.[7]

Foster won the Henry Fellowship to the Yale School of Architecture, where he met future business partner Richard Rogers and earned his master's degree. Vincent Scully encouraged Foster and Rogers to travel in America for a year.[21] After returning to the UK in 1963 he set up an architectural practice as Team 4 with Richard Rogers, Su Brumwell and the sisters Georgie and Wendy Cheesman. Georgie (later Wolton) was the only one of the team that had passed her RIBA exams allowing them to set up in practice on their own. Team 4 quickly earned a reputation for high-tech industrial design.

Foster + Partners

The Willis Faber and Dumas Headquarters in Ipswich was one of Foster's earliest commissions after founding Foster Associates.
The Willis Faber and Dumas Headquarters in Ipswich was one of Foster's earliest commissions after founding Foster Associates.

After Team 4 went their separate ways, Foster and Wendy Cheesman founded Foster Associates in 1967, which became Foster and Partners in 1999. A long period of collaboration with American architect Richard Buckminster Fuller began in 1968 and continued until Fuller's death in 1983. They collaborated on several projects that became catalysts in the development of an environmentally sensitive approach to design – including the Samuel Beckett Theatre project.[22]

Originally they concentrated on industrial buildings. The turning point was the 1969 administrative and leisure center for Fred. Olsen Lines in London Docklands, where workers and managers are not separated any more.[21] Foster and Partners' breakthrough building in the UK was the Willis Faber & Dumas headquarters in Ipswich, of 1974. The client was a family run insurance company which wanted to restore a sense of community to the workplace. Foster created open plan office floors long before open-plan became the norm. In a town not over-endowed with public facilities, the roof gardens, 25 metre swimming pool and gymnasium enhanced the quality of life for the company's 1200 employees.[23] The building has a full-height glass façade moulded to the medieval street plan and contributes drama, subtly shifting from opaque, reflective black to a glowing backlit transparency as the sun sets. The design was inspired by the Daily Express Building in Manchester a work Foster admired in his youth. The building is now Grade I* listed.

Apple Park, May 2017
Apple Park, May 2017

The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, an art gallery and museum on the campus of the University of East Anglia, Norwich, was one of the first major public buildings to be designed by Foster, completed in 1978, and became grade II* listed in December 2012. In 1990 Foster's design for the Terminal Building at London Stansted Airport was awarded the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture / Mies van der Rohe Award.

View of 30 St Mary Axe. The building serves as the London headquarters for Swiss Re and is informally known as 'The Gherkin'.
View of 30 St Mary Axe. The building serves as the London headquarters for Swiss Re and is informally known as 'The Gherkin'.
The HSBC Building in Hong Kong. Designed by Foster in the 1980s
The HSBC Building in Hong Kong. Designed by Foster in the 1980s

Foster gained a reputation for designing office buildings. In the 1980s he designed the HSBC Main Building in Hong Kong for HSBC. The building is marked by its high level of light transparency, as all 3500 workers have a view to Victoria Peak or Victoria Harbour.[24] Foster said that if the firm had not won the contract it would probably have been bankrupted.

Foster believes that attracting young talent is essential, and is proud that the average age of people working for Foster and Partners is 32, just like it was in 1967.[21]

Present day

Foster was assigned the brief for a development on the site of the Baltic Exchange in the 1990s. The Exchange was damaged beyond repair by a bomb left by the IRA. Foster + Partners submitted a plan for a 385 metre tall skyscraper, the London Millennium Tower, but its height was seen as excessive for London's skyline.[25] The proposal was scrapped and instead Foster proposed 30 St Mary Axe, popularly referred to as "the gherkin", after its shape. Foster worked with engineers to integrate complex computer systems with the most basic physical laws, such as convection.

The restored Reichstag in Berlin, housing the German parliament. The dome is part of Foster's redesign.
The restored Reichstag in Berlin, housing the German parliament. The dome is part of Foster's redesign.

Foster's earlier designs reflected a sophisticated, machine-influenced high-tech vision. His style has evolved into a more sharp-edged modernity. In 2004, Foster designed the tallest bridge in the world, the Millau Viaduct in Southern France, with the Millau Mayor Jacques Godfrain stating; "The architect, Norman Foster, gave us a model of art."[26]

Foster worked with Steve Jobs from about 2009 until Jobs' death to design the Apple offices, Apple Campus 2 now called Apple Park, in Cupertino, California. Apple's board and staff continued to work with Foster as the design was completed and the construction in progress.[27] The circular building was opened to employees in April 2017, six years after Jobs died in 2011.[27][28]

In January 2007, the Sunday Times reported that Foster had called in Catalyst, a corporate finance house, to find buyers for Foster + Partners. Foster does not intend to retire, but sell his 80–90% holding in the company valued at £300M to £500M.[29]

In 2007, he worked with Philippe Starck and Sir Richard Branson of the Virgin Group for the Virgin Galactic plans.[30]

Foster currently sits on the Board of Trustees at architectural charity Article 25 who design, construct and manage innovative, safe, sustainable buildings in some of the most inhospitable and unstable regions of the world. He has also been on the Board of Trustees of the Architecture Foundation.

In 2012, Foster was among the British cultural icons selected by artist Sir Peter Blake to appear in a new version of his most famous artwork – the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover – to celebrate the British cultural figures of his life that he most admires.[31][32]

Honours and styles


Foster was made a Knight Bachelor (Kt) in the 1990 Birthday Honours, and thereby granted the title sir. [33] He was appointed to the Order of Merit (OM) in 1997.[34] In the 1999 Birthday Honours, Foster's elevation to the peerage was announced in June 1999[35] and was raised to the peerage as Baron Foster of Thames Bank, of Reddish in the County of Greater Manchester in July.[36][37]

Foster was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy (ARA) on 19 May 1983, and a Royal Academician (RA) on 26 June 1991.[38] In 1995, he was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (HonFREng).[39] On 24 April 2017, he was given the Freedom of the City of London.[40] The Bloomberg London building received an Stirling Prize in October, 2018.[41]

Styles of address

  • 1935–1990: Mr Norman Foster
  • 1990–1997: Sir Norman Foster
  • 1997–1999: Sir Norman Foster, OM
  • 1999–: The Rt Hon. The Lord Foster of Thames Bank, OM, Kt


The Hearst Tower in New York City
The Hearst Tower in New York City

Foster received The Lynn S. Beedle Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat in 2007 to honour his contributions to the advancement of tall buildings.[42]

He was awarded the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, for the University of Technology Petronas in Malaysia,[43][44] and in 2008 he was granted an honorary degree from the Dundee School of Architecture at the University of Dundee. In 2009 he received the Prince of Asturias Award in the category Arts.


See also




  1. ^ "List of Fellows".
  2. ^ Chris Roberts, Heavy Words Lightly Thrown: The Reason Behind Rhyme, Thorndike Press,2006
  3. ^ Goldberger, Paul (28 May 1988). "Architecture View; What Pritzker Winners Tell Us About the Prize". The New York Times.
  4. ^ a b Sudjic 2010, p. 11.
  5. ^ Moore, Rowan (23 May 2010). "Norman Foster: A Life in Architecture by Deyan Sudjic". The Observer. London. Retrieved 6 October 2011.
  6. ^ Sudjic 2010, p. 19.
  7. ^ a b c d e "The Guardian Profile: Sir Norman Foster: The master builder". The Guardian. London. 2 January 1999. Retrieved 6 October 2011.
  8. ^ "Book review: Norman Foster: A Life in Architecture". 13 June 2010. Retrieved 6 October 2011.
  9. ^ Sudjic 2010, p. 32.
  10. ^ a b c "Taller, higher, bigger, Foster". The Guardian. London. 24 October 2005. Retrieved 5 October 2011.
  11. ^ a b Sudjic 2010, p. 27.
  12. ^ Sudjic 2010, p. 30.
  13. ^ Sudjic 2010, p. 34.
  14. ^ Sudjic 2010, p. 35.
  15. ^ Sudjic 2010, p. 37.
  16. ^ Sudjic 2010, p. 36.
  17. ^ Sudjic 2010, p. 39.
  18. ^ Sudjic 2010, p. 40.
  19. ^ a b "Norman Foster: Building the future". BBC News. 9 May 2000. Retrieved 5 October 2011.
  20. ^ Thistlethwaite, Laura (30 October 2008). "Architect's Levenshulme inpsiration [sic]". Manchester Evening News. M.E.N. Media. Retrieved 5 October 2011.
  21. ^ a b c How much does your building weigh, Mr. Foster?, Sternstunde Kultur, Schweizer Fernsehen, 4 December 2011.
  22. ^ "Samuel Brackett Theatre – The Project". Foster + Partners.
  23. ^ "Lord Norman Foster portrait". The Daily Telegraph. London: Telegraph Media Group. 24 June 2008. Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  24. ^ Treiber, Daniel (1995). Norman Foster. E & FN Spon. p. 76.
  25. ^ "London Millennium Tower". Emporis. Retrieved 10 October 2011.
  26. ^ "France shows off tallest bridge". BBC News. 14 December 2004. Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  27. ^ a b Levy, Steven (16 May 2017). "One More Thing: Inside Apple's Insanely Great (or Just Insane) New Mothership". Wired. Retrieved 1 July 2017.
  28. ^ "Why Steve Jobs Tapped Norman Foster to Design Apple's Future HQ". Bloomberg News. 4 April 2013. Retrieved 1 July 2017.
  29. ^ Hamilton, Fiona (21 January 2007). "Foster puts £500m firm up for sale". The Times. London.
  30. ^ Carré d'Art, Jean-Pierre Thiollet, Anagramme Ed., 2008, p. 134
  31. ^ "New faces on Sgt Pepper album cover for artist Peter Blake's 80th birthday". The Guardian. 5 October 2016.
  32. ^ "Sir Peter Blake's new Beatles' Sgt Pepper's album cover". BBC News. 8 November 2016.
  33. ^ "No. 52173". The London Gazette. 15 June 1990. p. 2.
  34. ^ "No. 54962". The London Gazette. 28 November 1997. p. 13399.
  35. ^ "No. 55513". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 June 1999. p. 1.
  36. ^ "No. 55565". The London Gazette. 28 July 1999. p. 8128.
  37. ^ "No. 24643". The Edinburgh Gazette. 23 July 1999. p. 1551.
  38. ^ "Norman Foster RA". Royal Academy of Arts. Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  39. ^ "List of Fellows - Foster". Royal Academy of Engineering. Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  40. ^
  41. ^ Wainwright, Oliver (2018-10-10). "Norman Foster's Bloomberg office in London wins Stirling prize". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-10-11.
  42. ^ "2007 Lynn S. Beedle Award Winner". Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. Retrieved 17 May 2012.
  43. ^ "The Tenth Award Cycle 2005–2007". The Aga Khan Development Network. Retrieved 21 January 2009.
  44. ^ "Petronas University of Technology receives 2007 Aga Khan Award for Architecture". Foster + Partners. 9 April 2007. Archived from the original on 9 April 2009. Retrieved 21 January 2009.



  • How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster? (dir. Carlos Carcass and Norberto Lopez Amado, 2010, 78 minutes)

External links

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