Sir Norman Foster, acclaimed British architect, and his firm, Foster & Partners, are currently juggling multiple commissions in the Bay area. Foster’s success is due in part to his long-term advocacy for technologically advanced buildings that serve the client, while remaining environmentally sensitive.
Foster & Partners has proposed two skyscrapers for San Francisco’s Transbay Project at First and Mission. The proposal features a 910-foot mixed-use skyscraper rising from diagonal supports, with ½ acre of public open space below. A second 605-foot residential tower sits nearby. Together they represent 2 million square feet of new space.
Foster & Partners is responsible for the design of the recently-approved (March 2014) Apple store for San Francisco’s Union Square, a glass and steel design, 45% larger than the existing store on Stockton Street.
Foster & Partners is the genius behind Apple’s new office building, now under construction on 175 acres in Cupertino. The shape, a glass donut (or spaceship), will eventually house 13,000 employees. Yet, the (one mile in circumference) building will only take up 20% of the available land, the rest left to open space.
Foster has already completed two successful buildings in the Bay area, both at Stanford University and both appreciated for their innovative technology.
First is the Center for Clinical Science Research completed in 2000, a center that is environmentally sensitive and seismically sound. Consisting of two windowed 4-story buildings facing an interior corridor, the design allows maximum natural light to penetrate the space. A tubular aluminum overhang offers a reduction but not a blockage of sunlight; operable windows allow for natural ventilation. This building was designed to serve a diverse community of researchers, scientists, and clinical personal from multiple departments. Interior spaces–open labs and meeting rooms–encourage collaboration among persons and departments.
Foster’s second project at Stanford University was the James Clark Bio X Building, completed in 2003. Located next to the Stanford Hospital and adjacent to the science quadrangle, it is a metaphorical “hinge” between the academic and medical communities. The purpose of the building is to build collaboration among the science, medicine, physics, and engineering departments as well as other disciplines in the university. Foster created three glass wings off a centered open-air atrium, to allow for maximum natural light. The wings are encircled by red-toned catwalks that recall the color of the Golden Gate Bridge as well as the roof tiles of Stanford. By putting these catwalks on the exterior, Foster creates more workspace inside.
The Bio X interior spaces allow for maximum flexibility. Users access utilities such as electricity, gas, water, and networking, from a pull-down ceiling grid. Desks, chairs and tables are modular and can be reassembled for deliberate or impromptu meetings.
These 2 Stanford buildings and the 3 ongoing projects share a common Foster & Partners aesthetic. They embrace technology, serve the user, and bring a new beauty to the landscape.