The prolific British architect Norman Foster is known for his sleek, modern and innovative structural creations to have built more than hundreds of works; from the Gherkin tower in London to the Apple Park in Cupertino, USA; won many of the world’s top architectural prizes and was granted a knighthood and life peer. 

Founded in 1967, his architecture practice Norman Foster and Partners, have been responsible for the striking wide range of work from urban scale projects, airports, civic and cultural buildings, offices to private residences to product designs. 

Among his many other world-renowned projects, listing below 5 of the lesser-known marvel projects of Norman Foster: 

1. Xiao Jing Wan University – Shenzhen, China

Completion Year – 2016

Xiao Jing Wan University located to the east of Shenzhen is a major part of urban development for China Resources Group, a state-owned by a Chinese company. The 55000 square-meter campus accommodates teaching and administration buildings, a library, auditorium, and residential blocks, all composed and linked by lush landscaping. The project maintains a strong horizontal emphasis with the buildings ranging from three to five in height. The project is mainly built of two materials: a fair-faced concrete and a specially designed clay brick reflecting the area’s vernacular heritage. The use of local materials with its restrained palette exudes a sense of warmth and the striking low-rise building blocks express a more humble and down to earth feel.

Xiao Jing Wan University - Shenzhen, China - Sheet1
Xiao Jing Wan University, Shenzhen, China ©
Xiao Jing Wan University - Shenzhen, China - Sheet2
Xiao Jing Wan University, Shenzhen, China ©
Xiao Jing Wan University - Shenzhen, China - Sheet3
Xiao Jing Wan University, Shenzhen, China ©

2. Winspear Opera House, Dallas, USA

Completion Year – 2009

The Winspear Opera House reinterprets the traditional opera house and establishes a new home for performing art in Dallas’ Arts District accessible for a wider audience. The Winspear Opera provides a destination for the general public with a cafe, restaurant and bookshops open throughout the day. A generous canopy extending from the building provides shade over 3 acres, significantly reducing the energy requirement of the Winspear Opera House. Beneath the canopy, is the shaded public plaza connecting the city at an urban scale. The entrance features the transparent red glass drum revealing a seamless visual appearance between the interior red glass panels and the surrounding Performance Park. The principal performance hall follows a horseshoe configuration and can house up to 2200 people. The hall is renowned for outstanding acoustics, engineered specifically to suit opera and musical theatre, although the stage is flexible to host a variety of performing arts. A prime feature of the auditorium is the gold leaf-covered balconies and 318-rod chandelier, named ‘The Moody Foundation Chandelier’ ascends into the ceiling prior to performances. 

Winspear Opera House, Dallas, USA - Sheet1
Winspear Opera House, Dallas, USA ©
Winspear Opera House, Dallas, USA - Sheet2
Winspear Opera House, Dallas, USA ©

3. Kamakura House, Japan

Completion Year – 2004

Located on a leafy hillside in Kamakura, Tokyo, the tranquil abode is designed for an art collector of Buddhist and modern art. The site occupies rich historic settlements including a Shinto shrine and man-made caves which once used as a workshop for samurai swords. The house is one of the three buildings originally planned to comprise an art gallery and function space, with particular storage for art collection. The interior spaces of the buildings are organized with a series of parallel structural walls and are further articulated by perpendicular infill walls that carry service functions. Special attention was paid to further emphasize individual artworks by a comprehensive integrated lighting system which includes fiber-optic lighting, dedicated spotlights, and naturally backlit glass blocks. The house articulates a sense of mystery created through a combination of materials, subtle use of colors, muted tones, and dark grey ceilings that add a degree of intimacy. A number of specialized materials have been developed for the project. The primary walls are made of reconstructed stone, while the glass blocks at the end of the gallery are made from recycled cathode-ray tubes. Floors are covered in antique Chinese tiles in parts, while the indoor pool is glazed with volcanic stones.

Kamakura House, Japan - Sheet1
Kamakura House, Japan ©
Kamakura House, Japan - Sheet2
Kamakura House, Japan ©
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Kamakura House, Japan ©

4. Steve Jobs Theatre, Cupertino, USA

Completion Year– 2017

Steve Jobs Theatre is located in Cupertino and secluded in the southeast corner of Apple part headquarters. The theatre is a huge circular building rising 6m from the ground and spanning 50m in diameter. The visitor reaches the theatre walking along the winding path through the exuberant parkland and comes to a massive lobby which is the only part above the ground. The entire lobby is free of columns and enclosed in glass frame and is the sole element supporting the 73-ton carbon roof, comprising 44 radial panels. Inside, all the frames, pipes, wires and speakers are technically hidden between the structures making the space look seamless and easy.

The theatre adjacent to the foyer is designed larger but feels intimate. It can accommodate nearly 1000 people and is used only periodically. The other stood-out element of the theatre is the intriguing use of Castagna stone and handrails in the two sets of stairs on either side of the lobby. Alongside the theatre, there are product demo rooms and spaces for product unveilings and corporate events. 

Steve Jobs Theatre, Cupertino, USA - Sheet1
Steve Jobs Theatre, Cupertino, USA ©
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Inside the lobby space, Steve Jobs Theatre, Cupertino, USA
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Inside view of the auditorium, Steve Jobs Theatre, Cupertino, USA

5. Al Faisaliyah Center, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Completion year – 2000

The 267m high skyscraper Al Faisaliyah Center is the first skyscraper built in Saudi Arabia. The tower has a square plan and is designed around a compact central core. The facades are clad in non-reflective energy-efficient glass in response to the Middle Eastern climate, and the layered façade is punctuated at sections by observation decks clad in silver-anodized aluminium panels with cantilevered shading. The distinctive round portion at the top is a restaurant called ‘The Globe’, is one of the prime restaurants in Saudi Arabia from which a  breathtaking 360 view of Riyadh and the surrounding landscape can be viewed. At the building’s pinnacle, the tower is topped by a stainless-steel finial.

Al Faisaliyah Center, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - Sheet1
Al Faisaliyah Center, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia ©
Al Faisaliyah Center, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - Sheet2
Inside view of the Al Faisaliyah Center, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Al Faisaliyah Center, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - Sheet3
Observing decks at sections, Al Faisaliyah Center, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia ©

Tasmania Chowdhury, an architecture graduate, is currently engaged as a feature writer in the leading architecture magazine in Bangladesh. To her, architecture exists as an emotional platform. It has the potential to make people move. She enjoys putting down this emotive tool in writing while enjoying a cup of latte and plugging to ‘Rabindra Sangeet’.

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