How Much Does Your Building Weigh Mr. Foster?

How Much Does Your Building Weigh Mr. Foster?

Static Mass Rating: 4/5

Release date: January 28th 2011
Certificate (UK): E
Running time: 74 minutes

Director: Carlos Carcas, Norberto Lopez Amado

Cast: Norman Foster

Official Movie Site

Take a walk through London and his work is easy to spot.

The towering façade of the Swiss Re Building (dubbed “the Gherkin”) dominates the city skyline with its swirling glass structure. The Great Court of the British Museum became a work of art on its own when Foster redesigned its roof and surrounding walls. Linking St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Tate Modern is the 144 meter steel suspension bridge, The Millennium Bridge.

Further along the Thames River you’ll notice City Hall, which former mayor Ken Livingstone once referred to as the “glass testicle”. Keep moving along the Thames and you’ll soon see the sprawling metropolis of Canary Wharf and there you’ll find the HSBC Tower, a skyscraper rising 200 meters towards the sky; it is the third tallest building in the UK.

How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr Foster?

On the other side of London, to the North-West, there’s another building rising conspicuously high above all others – Wembley Stadium. With its partially retractable roof, 134 meter high arch and 1 kilometre circumference, it’s a state of the art construction and like all of Foster’s work, it is designed to balance energy efficiency, aesthetic appeal and usefulness equally.

His architecture makes buildings come alive and this documentary, narrated by Deyan Sudjic, is a look at how Foster went from his first drawing of an aircraft model as a child to redesigning how we experience the modern environment.

Featuring interviews with Foster along with fellow architect Richard Rogers (Lloyds Building and the Millennium Dome) artists Anish Kapoor and Anthony Caro, engineer Tony Hunt and U2 front man, Bono, as well as members from the Foster and Partners team, How Much Does Your Building, Mr. Foster? is an insightful and poignant look at one man who has literally changed the face of London.

How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr Foster?How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr Foster?How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr Foster?

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But his work doesn’t end there. In Germany he has redesigned the Reichstag with a glass dome giving Berlin a new identity in its unified era. Dresden Hauptbahnhof which was badly damaged during World War 2 and then again by the 2002 floods had a new roof installed, and like the Reichstag dome, it merges Germany’s past with its new future. In Frankfurt, the Commerzbank Tower, at 300 meters high, is the tallest building in the European Union.

In France, the Millau Viaduct, the tallest bridge in the world (343 meters), is a wonder of the modern world, stretching 2,460 meters. In China, the Beijing Capital International Airport is the third largest building in the world and comes complete with an underground garden.


But as the documentary highlights, the majority of mankind will abandon the countryside to live entirely in cities so what developers and city planners need to do is work with architects and designers to figure out a way to solve the problems this shift will create.

Foster is already working on this with his team. Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates will rely entirely on solar energy and renewable energy sources together with a sustainable, zero-carbon, zero-waste ecology.

How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr Foster?

At the age of 75, Foster shows no signs of slowing down. While his critics may say we are in danger of living in a Fosterised world, he simply can’t stop now. Foster believes there’s more to a building that four walls, a floor, a ceiling and a few holes for coming and going; it should remind us how beautiful useful things can be. Foster and Partners are also currently in the design phase for Tower 2 at World Trade Center site which is estimated to be completed in 2020, almost 20 years after the towers were destroyed in 9/11 attacks.

The drawbacks to a documentary such as this are that it will only appeal to those with a strong interest in architecture. For the most part I knew nothing of the people interviewed in it, save for Foster (and Bono) of course. As someone with a passing interest with Foster’s work I was able to appreciate it yet I wished there was more footage included of the buildings, bridges and structures rather than stills which dampened the experience a little bit.

At times it also felt a little too much like one of those “making of” documentaries that you find on DVD’s where the cast and crew talk favourably about the beloved director. They seemed reluctant to address points such as the fact that Londoners feel the Gherkin is a terrible structure that’s ruined the skyline forever (I’m one of them!). Or that Foster is now a brand with hundreds of staff on the payroll putting the Foster stamp on buildings around the world. Does individuality still exist then? If Masdar City really works it could have huge implications for generations to come, but it looks more and more like Fosterism is the future.

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