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Sir Norman Foster of Great Britain Is the 1999 Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize

Sir Norman Foster, a 63 year-old architect from Great Britain, has been named the 1999 Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. Among the many Foster and Partners on-going projects throughout the world, some of the highest profile are the world's largest airport in Hong Kong, which opened this past year; the new Great Court for the British Museum; and the creation within Berlin's historic Reichstag of a new German Parliament.

Other major projects in various phases of design or construction include a headquarters tower for Daewoo Electronics in Seoul, Korea; a museum of prehistory in the Gorges du Verdon, France; a new regional Music Center, planned for a dramatic riverside site in Gateshead, North-east England; a great glass house for the new National Botanic Gardens of Wales; a service station concept for the petroleum company Repsol in Spain and Latin America; and a new university campus in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

In London, the practice has many projects either newly-completed or under development. These include a Bio-Medical Sciences Building for Imperial College; headquarters towers for Citibank and the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank at Canary Wharf; the Millennium Pedestrian Bridge across the River Thames forming a new route between St. Paul's Cathedral and the Tate Gallery of Modern Art and the Globe Theatre on Bankside; the World Squares For All Central London master plan, yet another facet of the firm's work in urban planning with the goal to reclaim Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square for pedestrians while respecting the demands of traffic; a new Wembley Stadium; and a parliament building for the Greater London Authority on the banks of the Thames adjacent to Tower Bridge. In the United States, Foster completed a new wing for the Joslyn Museum in Omaha, Nebraska in 1994. Nearing completion in Palo Alto, California is a 214,000 square-foot Center for Clinical Sciences Research at Stanford University's Medical School.

As the Pritzker Architecture Prize begins its third decade of honoring great architecture throughout the world, Thomas J. Pritzker, president of The Hyatt Foundation, spoke of the jury's choice, saying, "The jury has chosen an architect who cares passionately about the future of this planet, an avowed optimist with a firm belief in technological progress, but who also believes that architecture is about people and the quality of life. He makes buildings that will not only last, but will work for the people that use them, and in the process provide an uplifting experience."

The formal presentation of what has come to be known throughout the world as architecture's highest honor will be made at a ceremony in Berlin on June 7, 1999. At that time, Sir Norman will be presented with a $100,000 grant and a bronze medallion. He is the second Englishman to become a Pritzker Laureate, the first being the late Sir James Stirling who was honored in 1981, and who encouraged a young Foster as he began his career in the early sixties.

Foster has designed and built office towers in Tokyo, Japan and Frankfurt, Germany and Hong Kong as well as a communications tower in Barcelona, Spain. The world's largest airport in Hong Kong was presaged by London's Third Airport at Stansted. He designed a rapid transit system for Bilbao, Spain and has recently completed a station for London's underground Jubilee Line, Canary Wharf , as well as the transport interchange at Greenwich. His global output includes furniture, offices, showrooms, warehousing facilities and industrial buildings, single residences and multiple housing units, schools, bridges, art museums and galleries, universities, sports stadia, research laboratories, shops, cultural centers, and libraries. And he designed one project that is capable of moving all around the world, a180-foot private motor yacht.

Foster attracted attention in 1971 when he was able to deliver a permanent office building to IBM in Cosham, at the cost and within the time-frame of temporary quarters. In 1975, Foster's modernist solution for an office structure in Ipswich, England for Willis Faber & Dumas brought the first international attention to his work. The three-storey, glass-clad exterior followed irregular street patterns, reflecting its surroundings by day, but becoming transparent at night to reveal the two open plan office floors and a swimming pool on the ground level. The project is considered a model of social responsiveness, as well as being ecologically efficient. Within two years, he confirmed his ability to bring innovation in both materials and design to the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at the University of East Anglia, Norwich. On a much larger and international scale, in 1979, he received the commission for the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation's headquarters, for which he designed a tower 47 stories above a ground floor plaza. Foster's life comes close to being a Horatio Alger story. He was born into a working class family in a suburb of Manchester, England in 1935, where the odds of his making a career in a profession were highly unlikely. He attended a local high school and did well, showing an early interest in architecture. After a series of odd jobs, and after his national service in the Royal Air Force, he enrolled in Manchester University where he won nearly every scholarship and fellowship available, eventually winning one to attend Yale University in the United States.

Since his first commission some 35 years ago, he has won worldwide acclaim for his modernist buildings, including his profession's highest honors. In 1990, he received a Knighthood from the Queen of England and in 1997 was appointed by the Queen to the Order of Merit. Pritzker Prize jury chairman, J. Carter Brown, commented, "Rooted in the grand tradition of 20th century modernism, Sir Norman Foster transcends categorization. At whatever scale, from a glass elevator to an airport, his vision forges the materials of our age into a crystalline, lyrical purity that is highly personal, brilliantly functional, and—shy as we are about using the word—just downright beautiful."

Bill Lacy, the executive director of the Pritzker Prize, quoted from the jury citation which states, "His design objectives are guided not only toward the overall beauty and function of a project, but for the well-being of those people who will be the end-users. This social dimension to his work translates as making every effort to transform and improve the quality of life. In the early seventies, he pioneered the notion that the workplace could be a pleasant environment."

Lacy, who is an architect himself and president of the State University of New York at Purchase, added, "Sir Norman Foster's buildings set a standard for design excellence in the use of modern technology pushed to its artistic limits. His buildings represent the highest attainment of contemporary architecture in the twentieth century and will undoubtedly be the design standard for much of the architecture of the next century."