Modernism gets its good name back from Norman Foster. In its earliest stirrings, almost a century ago, architectural Modernism was an idealist notion. It attracted men and women who proposed to make a better world through uncluttered design. But by the 1970s, Modernism had declined into a realm of boxy clichés. The London-based Foster, 72, was one of the architects who turned things around by proving that to make good buildings, it would not be necessary to abandon the principles of Modernismclear structure, lucid formsbut simply to apply them with new rigor and imagination.
During the past 25 years, Foster has been the architect behind some of the most famous additions to the global skyline, including the Swiss Re headquarters in London that everybody calls the Gherkin and the Hearst Tower in New York City. Though the silhouette of a Foster building can be memorable, his most effective vision is embodied in things you don't always see. Above all, he has been a pioneer among green architects. His headquarters for the Commerzbank in Frankfurt, completed in 1997, was the first ecologically correct office tower, with a central atrium that features multistory gardens that create natural ventilation. Foster doesn't merely prove that great architects can be great designers. He proves that they can be good citizens too.
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