Norman Foster is something of a legend in the world of architecture. The multi-award-winning British architect kicked off his career with Su Brumwell, Wendy Cheesman and Richard Rogers at the legendary Team 4, before setting up Foster + Partners (originally known as Foster Associates) in 1967. The London firm soon came to be one of the practices that defined high-tech architecture and the 20th century, scooping pretty much every award there is along the way. 

Commissions have always been international, with works in Asia featuring prominently in its portfolio right from the start: one of Foster’s most well-known early works is the HSBC Building in Hong Kong, built in the 1980s. Now, Lord Foster (the architect was made a peer as Baron Foster of Thames Bank in 1999) has a slew of completed high-profile projects in China, and more in the works. 

Hong Kong HSBC Tower
The Hongkong and Shanghai Bank, Hong Kong, 1985. Photography: Ian Lambot 

‘China is an extraordinary place in all kinds of ways,’ he says. ‘It has an incredible architectural and cultural heritage, but it is also forward looking, with a great willingness to embrace the new. Our first project in China, the HSBC tower, was a project with the ambition of being the best bank in the world.’

Commissions for larger-scale work followed, including the busiest airport in Asia, Beijing’s International Airport. ‘Beijing Airport was less about a building and more about major investment in infrastructure; that is the key to the future of our cities,’ says Foster. ‘China, in my opinion, has seized the initiative on this issue and this is in sharp contrast to the indecision, bureaucracy and procrastination elsewhere in the world on similar critical issues.’§

Xiao Jing Wang University, Shenzhen, China, 2011-2016. Photography: Nigel Young, Foster and Partners 
A portrait of Norman Foster
Norman Foster. Photography: Frederic Aranda