I admire architecture. Our relationship with architecture is intimate and fundamental, it sustain and shape us. Architecture has practical purpose but a beautiful building can also be a moving aesthetic experience. The last few decades the boundaries between art and architecture are increasingly blurred. Many, including architects, argue that the concept of architecture is a form of art, a “work of art that we can move through and live in,” said President Obama, in 2011, during the Chicago Architecture Biennial.
Architects can be artistic, they may draw inspiration from art, but they are not artists, at least not in the traditional meaning of the word. Architecture is so much more, says Deyan Sudjic in his book Norman Foster: A life in architecture. It is a passion, a calling, as well as a science and a business. Or, as Paul Rudolph said, “Architecture is a process of finding out what you need to know.”
The book is a biography of one of the world’s most lauded architects, “written with his full co-operation” Sudjic adds. It tells the story of a young man in a terraced house near a railway crossing in Levenshulme in Manchester, his dreams and aspirations, as well as his progress from Manchester University to Yale and from there to Foster and Partners HQ in Battersea and to House of Lords.
It is a portrait of a man that developed radical architecture, a visionary who wanted architecture to reflect the social conditions of the new age. The book is a good introduction to Norman Forster, it explores his work, his influences, and some sensitive issues, like the expense of the Hong kong and Shanghai Bank and the wobble in the Millennium Bridge in London. There is a special mention to Buckminster Fuller. Both Bucky Fuller and Paul Rudolph, his teacher in Yale, fundamentally influenced the work and the way Foster view the world.
The book is a careful, respectful and well-written biography. There are some intimate anecdotes and insights, but it lacks a sense of excitement and leaves a lot of questions unanswered.