Edited by David Jenkins
Given the stream of new volumes on Lord Foster and his architecture, it might be tempting to call this doorstop of a book Foster On and On. It is, in fact, an anthology of writings spanning 30 years, mostly of reviews on Foster by architectural critics, including Rayner Banham, Kenneth Frampton and Martin Pawley. It also includes essays by the man himself, or "Foster On". The discussion covers all of Foster's major buildings and projects, from early work with Team 4 to recent landmarks such as the Reichstag and Chek Lap Kok Airport in Hong Kong.
In his introductory essay, Deyan Sudjic claims that the decisive shift in Foster's work in the past decade has been a broadening of perspective. "The studio has moved beyond a preoccupation with crafting the individual building and begun to operate at the scale of the city, as well as the spoon." He argues that the giant new Hong Kong airport "represents nothing less than the creation of an entire city", which has the strength to outgrow the concept of its architect.
In the 46 essays penned by Foster, he reveals himself as a perceptive and lucid writer, avoiding the self-serving, pseudo-intellectual jargon loved by so many architects. He is as much at home in the philosophy of design as he is in explaining his approach to a particular project, and is not beyond the odd eulogy of his mentors, such as Paul Rudolph, Craig Ellwood and James Stirling.
Foster's writing can indeed be heady stuff. Pondering the architecture of the future last year, he claimed it will "by necessity, be one that addresses the world's increasing ecological crisis". And what is Foster's ideal ecological building? A 170-storey skyscraper, twice the height of New York's Empire State Building, housing 60 000 people on 0.013 km2 of land. "It would create a virtually self-sufficient, fully self-sustaining community in the sky," he enthuses. It's just a shame he didn't present his solutions for the concentrated and emphatically non-ecological chaos of transport, traffic, servicing, supplies and waste disposal that would be created around the base of the tower.
The book comes with a CD-ROM that acts as an interactive catalogue of Foster projects.