More With Less
Norman Foster (Foster + Partners)


Norman Foster (Left) With Buckminster Fuller

©Foster Associates

I'd like to talk around a selection of projects which show the development of a number of themes. These themes are concerned with the social implications of design, the importance of site context, effects of change, and the effects of change on buildings which offer the potential for choice, change, and growth over their life-span. The means to realise such buildings are concerned with a shift away from traditional site- based activities, and a move to factory-based activities, with implications of clean and dry, clip-together, bolt-together, zip-together, for better quality-control and speed of erection. Many of the systems and components which have been developed in this approach - systems concerned with structure, servicing, enclosure, or the interior systems - are specially designed for the buildings,and use newer technologies, techniques which have been derived from ship-building, automobile and aero-space industries, particularly the latter, rather than traditional building industry. This is in the spirit of seeking higher-performance solutions, and also in the spirit of doing more with less. These concerns and interests relate to a search also for appropriate spaces, both inside and outside the building. And the changing qualities of natural light are a vital ingredient in such an approach, the qualities of top light, reflected light, direct, indirect, translucency and transparency.


Newport School Competition Entry

©Foster Associates

I'd like to try and show the balance between research and practice, in a number of schemes, the first of which is a research project for education buildings. This was done about twelve years ago. It takes the form really of a structural module which carries a roof umbrella. And under that roof umbrella, which is obviously fixed, all the walls are movable, so movable walls below can change and can relate to new patterns of teaching and learning. This has the capability of producing one building, not separate buildings for individual activities; but one building which can get better interaction between those activities, produces a more compact form which makes better use of the site and energy. And this roof umbrella transmits light, both natural and artificial, the movement of air, of power, and communication systems. These modules can come together to produce deep-plan schedules or thinner linear plans or courtyard forms. It's really a manipulable tool. So the designer could programme them to produce a multitude of different variations. Influences at the time were the California SCSD school system.

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