“How much does your building weigh, Mr. Foster?” is an architecture documentary released in the year 2010 and is based on the life and works of the celebrated architect, Mr. Norman Foster. With IMDb rating 7.1/10, and 1 hour 10 minutes of duration this movie is adorable.

Documentaries for Architects: How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster? (2010)

“How much does your building weigh, Mr. Foster?” is an architecture documentary released in the year 2010 and is based on the life and works of the celebrated architect, Mr. Norman Foster. With IMDb rating 7.1/10, and 1 hour 10 minutes of duration this movie is adorable. The film is directed by Carlos Carcas and Norberto Lopez Amado and written by Deyan Sudjic.  The movie accompanies music by Joan Valent which harmoniously links with the time lapses and the panning images of domes and bridges. With brilliant cinematography, the camera swoops over some of the very famous works of Mr. Foster. we get to see stunningly photographed images of his work from Manhattan to Beijing, including his breath-taking Millau Viaduct. It uses aerial photography and floats through the interiors of some of the skyscrapers. The movie importantly quotes Paul Goldberger, a former architecture critic for The New York Times describe Mr. Foster as “the Mozart of Modernism,” and talks about the grace and harmony of Foster’s compositions in glass, steel, and light. Deyan Sudjic is the narrator of the movie. He is the director of London’s Design Museum and the author of Foster book called ‘Norman Foster; A life in Architecture’ which was released in 2010. He looks upon Foster as a hero in the field of Architecture. 

Today Norman Foster follows the career of Britain’s most successful living architect Foster, 76 years old, challenging himself in cross-country ski marathons through very beautiful snow. From A kid from lower-class Manchester, where he was born quite literally on the wrong side of the tracks he recalls of a railway line that separated his parents’ working-class home from a prosperous middle-class area, Foster now runs one of the world’s largest architecture firms — 1,400 employees designs some of the world’s largest buildings.  The movie talks about his studies and experiences at Yale University. Excerpts include Richard Rogers and him walking around and photographing the “a romantic vision of America” at the start of his career. He was smitten with American structures.

Foster recalls his first job into the profession from a humble assistant, how he managed to have conversations with junior architects in the firm, to making his portfolio and approaching the architect and get his first project as a house. From there on, he never looked back.

The movie includes visual tours of his projects like the Sainsbury Center for Visual Arts at the University of East Anglia, the Hearst Building in Manhattan, the former Swiss Re Tower (popularly known as the Gherkin) in London include brief explanations of their origin and form. The discussion goes on to the sleekness, gracefulness, and aerodynamic part of the structure. They also talk about environmental concerns and they use recycled materials and modern technologies to decrease energy costs.

Deyan Sudjic  says, “If you look at how Norman looks, always dressed in a particular kind of style, it reflects the qualities of his architecture very much,” “It has that sense of doing things precisely, carefully, considerably.” Apart from affectionate testimonials from Mr. Foster’s colleagues and friends, his fellow members of the fraternity, the musician Bono and the sculptor Anish Kapoor have also praised the sense of vision and artistry in Foster’s works. The movie draws its title after a question posed by Buckminster Fuller, “How much does your building weigh, Mr. Foster?”

The movie also takes note of his habits and hobbies, how he became a licensed pilot, and his love for airplanes, an avid cyclist, and his devotion to skiing explains how he seeks to incorporate his projects into the natural world and how he is inspired by nature. His love for sketching so much so that he carries a block of paper and sharpened pencils in his car just in case something strikes him on the way. Norman never stops drawing,” Sudjic exclaims. “He communicates most effectively through a sharp pencil and a beautiful block of paper. In his cars there are fresh notepads and freshly sharpened pencils, just in case, something comes to him. He is always drawing. Drawing, drawing, drawing. It’s the way he thinks. It’s the way he argues points. You can see the buildings take shape.” 

Toward the end, there is a burst of intellectual momentum as the discussion turns to the challenges of sustainable planning and large-scale construction in a rapidly developing world. The discussion on an airport in Beijing, Mr. Foster marvels at the Chinese government’s ability to mobilize 50,000 workers, who labored in staggered, round-the-clock shifts and lived onsite. The team also talks about the unbuilt scheme he likes to tout as a “carbon neutral” city for 50,000 residents in Abu Dhabi.

In my opinion, How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?” handsomely shot, elegantly edited, and quite gorgeously narrated. It is a must-watch for all the students and professionals in the field of architecture. This movie should not only inspire architects but also others from the field of photography and cinematography


Prachi is an explorer & dog lover. She lives life to the fullest and thrives on creative conversations. An architect by choice, she now dabbles in the art of teaching it. She is also a theatre actor and co-founder of Bombay Theatre Company, a theatre group based out of Mumbai.

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