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How Much Does Your Building Weigh Mr. Foster?

How Much Does Your Building Weigh Mr. Foster?

By Patrick Samuel • January 28th, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 4/5
Art Commissioners

Original release: January 28th 2011
Running time: 74 minutes

Director: Carlos Carcas, Norberto Lopez Amado

Cast: Norman Foster

How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr Foster?

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.

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’s 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 he 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’s literally changed the face of London.

How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr Foster?

His work doesn’t end there though. In Germany he’s 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 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.

Yet 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.

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 How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr 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.

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 in 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.

How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr Foster?

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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