Norman Foster was born in Manchester in 1935. After graduating from Manchester University School of Architecture and City Planning in 1961 he won a Henry Fellowship to Yale University, where he gained a Master’s Degree in Architecture.

He is the founder and chairman of Foster and Partners. Founded in London in 1967, it is now a worldwide practice, with project offices in more than twenty countries. Over the past four decades the company has been responsible for a strikingly wide range of work, from urban master plans, public infrastructure, airports, civic and cultural buildings, offices and workplaces to private houses and product design.

Foster has established an international reputation with projects as diverse as the New German Parliament in the Reichstag in Berlin, Chek Lap Kok International Airport and the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank in Hong Kong, Commerzbank Headquarters in Frankfurt, Willis Faber & Dumas Head Office in Ipswich, and the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich. Since its inception, the practice has received more than 400 awards and citations for excellence and has won numerous international and national competitions.

He became the 21st Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate in 1999. He has been awarded the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal for Architecture (1994), the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture (1983), and the Gold Medal of the French Academy of Architecture (1991). In 1990 he was granted a Knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, and in 1999 was honored with a Life Peerage, becoming The Lord Foster of Thames Bank.

Foster has lectured throughout the world and has taught architecture in the United Kingdom and the United States. He has been Vice-President of the Architectural Association in London, Council Member of the Royal College of Art and was a founding trustee of the Architecture Foundation of London ...

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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." 


Read Joseph Giovannini's Essay

Sir Norman Foster's pursuit of the art and science of architecture has resulted in one building triumph after another, each one in its own way, unique. He has re-invented the tall building, producing Europe's tallest and arguably the first skyscraper with an ecological conscience, the Commerzbank in Frankfurt. He cares passionately for the environment, designing accordingly. From his very first projects, it was evident that he would embrace the most advanced technology appropriate to the task, producing results sensitive to their sites, always with imaginative solutions to design problems. His design objectives are guided not only toward the overall beauty and function of a project, but for the wellbeing 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 with one of his first notable projects, the Willis Faber and Dumas offices, that included a swimming pool and grassy rooftop park for employees.

In the three decades since, Sir Norman has produced a collection of buildings and products noted for their clarity, invention, and sheer artistic virtuosity. His work ranges in scale from the modest, but exquisite new addition of the Sackler Galleries to the existing galleries of the Royal Academy of Arts in London, and the serenely simple limestone addition to the Joslyn Museum in Omaha, Nebraska—to a pair of grand mega-projects, both in Hong Kong, the world's largest air terminal, and the much-acclaimed Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank.

Proof of his ability to produce remarkable solutions for diverse programs in urban settings is his sensitive placement and design of the Carré d'Art, a cultural center next to a revered Roman temple, dating from 500 BC, in the heart of Nîmes, France. Such a juxtaposition of contemporary and ancient architecture has rarely been achieved so successfully. His transformation of more recent historic icons—the Reichstag in Berlin and the new Great Court of the British Museum—are brilliant redesign-renovations.

His design versatility is further demonstrated with his experimentation and innovation in designing a wide range of products from a simple door handle, to tables and tableware, chairs and other furniture for storage systems, book stacks, desks, exhibition stands, and street furniture as well as a solar powered bus and private motor yacht. His is a continuing process of discovery, inspiration, invention and innovation.

For Sir Norman's steadfast devotion to the principles of architecture as an art form, for his contributions in defining an architecture with high technological standards, and for his appreciation of the human values involved in producing consistently well-designed projects, he is awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, with warm wishes for continued success in the new millennium. 


Jury Members

J. Carter Brown (Chairman)
Giovanni Agnelli
Ada Louise Huxtable
Toshio Nakamura
Jorge Silvetti
Lord Rothschild
Bill Lacy (Executive Director)

Altes Museum, Berlin, Germany

The Pritzker Architecture Prize award ceremony for 1999 was held at the Altes Museum on the Museum Island in Berlin. It was followed by a reception in another significant space, the New National Gallery by Mies van der Rohe. Finally, the formal dinner took place in the Hyatt Hotel, designed by 1996 Pritzker Laureate Rafael Moneo.

The Altes Museum, designed by Freidrich Schinkel (1781-1841) architect, painter, and stage designer, is located on a prominent site in the heart of Berlin. When built, the relationship with surrounding buildings was not only one of position and scale but highly symbolic as it faced the Royal Palace and was flanked by two churches. When opened in 1830, it was one of the most influential buildings of its time. It was also one of the earliest buildings specifically designed for the public display of works. Employing a neoclassical vocabulary, the imposing building uses 18 Ionic columns to line the front façade, creating a colonnade to lend grandeur to the museum. The central rotunda, which Schinkel reverently called a pantheon, is an inspiring space in which the Pritzker Architecture Prize Ceremony took place.

The 1999 award ceremony included the participation of Eberhard Diepgen, Mayor of Berlin, Wolfgang Thierse, President of the German Parliament, J. Carter Brown, Chair of the Pritzker Architecture Prize Jury, Thomas J. Pritzker, President of the Hyatt Foundation and Sir Norman Foster, 1999 Laureate.


Read Norman Foster's Ceremony Acceptance Speech

Read Tom Pritzker's Ceremony Speech


Altes Museum

Ceremony Highlights

Full Ceremony