Norman Foster

Why Lord Foster wants us to travel more

And it’s so we can learn from the Pritzker laureate's buildings, airports and plane interiors

In keeping with his profession Lord Foster is a remarkably footloose architect. The Pritzker laureate is a keen cyclist, an amateur pilot, travels a huge amount and recently designed an expo pavilion that could be taken apart and reassembled, thousands of miles away.

So, perhaps it shouldn't surprise us to learn that the architect has just launched the 2014 RIBA Norman Foster Travelling Scholarship. This prize of £6000 will go the student who suggests the best programme of international research on a topic related to the survival of our towns and cities.

Foster said, “as a student I won a prize that allowed me to spend a summer travelling through Europe and to study first hand buildings and cities that I knew only from the pages of books. It was a revelation – liberating and exhilarating in so many ways.”


Foster + Partner's Thames Hub
Foster + Partner's Thames Hub

His scholarship, which has been awarded annually since 2007, has funded a variety of worthy investigations, from studies of African recycling, to the application of Charles Booth's revolutionary Victorian poverty mapping techniques to latterday slums around the world. Proof that the lessons of city building needn't be time or space specific. Students can submit their entries here.

Meanwhile, Foster has also put the case for his UK estuary airport plans even more forcefully. In a video submission to the inaugural RunwaysUK Conference, an airport infrastructure event attended by the British government's Airports Commission, the architect argued that “the present and the future more than ever are about connecting cities.”

He went on to explain why his plan for an airport in the poorer, more sparsely populated region to the east of London, on the Thames estuary, dubbed Thames Hub, would be better suited than to the current situation, with Heathrow, the country's biggest airport, in a prosperous, densely populated district, west of the capital.


Foster + Partner's Thames Hub
Foster + Partner's Thames Hub

While you might take issue with the facts, it’s worth remembering that Foster has completed projects in every continent, and designed and built huge airports in Hong Kong and Beijing on time and on budget. And while city planners, instutions and private bodies still court the great architect in an attempt to boost local appeal, he remains a world-renowned practioner who thinks on a truly global scale.

For more on this, go here. For further insight into architectural developments across the world, download our Phaidon Architecture Travel Guide App before you leave home today.