Photograph by C. Bibby/Financial Times-REA/Redux

Why Steve Jobs Tapped Norman Foster to Design Apple's Future HQ

  1. Premier Architect
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    Premier Architect

    As the U.K.'s best-known premier architect, Norman Foster need not choose to work on budget-driven projects. He has been involved in several high-profile, extremely expensive buildings, stadiums, and airports, and, with rare exception, his clients seem to have accepted—or colluded on—spending more for a structure that stands a chance of becoming iconic. Steve Jobs appeared to be next in this line of patrons willing to spend for a showplace. Also, as a selective look through Foster + Partners' portfolio reveals, Foster and Jobs put a priority on beauty and ambition over thrift; they share a passion for the expressive use of technology.

    Photograph by C. Bibby/Financial Times-REA/Redux
  2. HongKongBank, aka Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Headquarters, Hong Kong, 1985
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    HongKongBank, aka Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Headquarters, Hong Kong, 1985

    The bank famously wanted "the best building in the world," and just as famously got the most expensive office building ever built at the time, rising from an early estimate of $500 million to $1.3 billion (according to a detailed Harvard Design School "Infomatic." With its exuberant expression of engineering, it remains an impressive presence on the Hong Kong skyline.

    Photograph by Martin Jones/Corbis
  3. Commerzbank Headquarters, Frankfurt, 1997
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    Commerzbank Headquarters, Frankfurt, 1997

    Foster began including a variety of energy-conserving tactics in his buildings in the early 1990s, and Commerzbank is the most elaborate example of this. He included outdoor sky gardens that spiral up the building so that almost everyone has easy access to them. The building is naturally ventilated and lighted mostly without electric lights. A dramatic central atrium not only opens inner offices to views of the sky gardens, it acts as a chimney to exhaust used, heated air. The later 30 St Mary Axe ("the Gherkin"), in London, uses the sky gardens in a smaller, less ambitious way.

    Photograph by Ralph Richter/Esto
  4. Hong Kong Airport, Hong Kong, 1998
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    Hong Kong Airport, Hong Kong, 1998

    Foster designed a $1.5 billion, 9 million-square-foot terminal in rows of vaulted metal roofs. It was only one component of a massive $20 billion airport complex built on an artificial island. It connects to Hong Kong's central business district 25 kilometers away with expressways, tunnels, and a suspension bridge accommodating roads and high-speed rail.

    Photograph by Liu Xiaoxia/ImageChina
  5. Reichstag Restoration, Berlin, 1999
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    Reichstag Restoration, Berlin, 1999

    The seat of the German parliament was famously destroyed by the Nazis in 1933 and remained largely a ruin until Berlin was reunified. Foster won an international competition to rehabilitate the building, but his design was controversial for stretching a great metal porch horizontally out of the building rather than restoring its destroyed dome. The porch was scrapped and the dome was built, but out of a lightweight glass and metal structure with a visitor walkway within that spirals up the dome and offers panoramas of the city. By placing the people symbolically above the parliament, and making the dome a demonstration of energy conservation, Foster tempered Germany's bellicose history with a symbol of a progressive, ecologically sensitive democratic state.

    Photograph by Sylvain Sonnet/Bloomberg
  6. Wembley Stadium, London, 2007
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    Wembley Stadium, London, 2007

    The replacement for a historic 1924 stadium, the new Wembley seats 90,000. A great tilted arch, an emblem of the stadium visible for miles, suspends cables that hold up a retractable roof. That high-tech roof contributed to its £800 million cost, which makes it among the most expensive stadiums ever built. Disputes among contractors over the fixed-price project resulted in delays.

    Photograph by Paul Cunningham/Corbis
  7. Hearst Tower, New York, 2006
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    Hearst Tower, New York, 2006

    The eye-catching, diagonal-grid exterior of the Hearst media company's $500 million headquarters traces structural bracing that helped reduce steel weight and costs. The tower rises out of the company's original 1926 headquarters. Its interior is treated as a theatrical four-story atrium.

    Photograph by Floto & Warner/Getty Images
  8. Khan Shatyr Entertainment Center, Astana, Kazakhstan, 2010
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    Khan Shatyr Entertainment Center, Astana, Kazakhstan, 2010

    For Kazakhstan's fickle climate, Foster designed a 150-meter-high tilted tent in an insulating high-tech, translucent fabric called ETFE and supported it with cables. Its 100,000 square meters host a park and a variety of leisure venues. It is one of the iconic structures built in the newly oil-rich nation by its leader Nursultan Nazarbayev. (Foster also built a pyramidal Palace of Peace and Reconciliation there.)

    Photograph by Jane Sweeney/Getty Images
  9. Masdar City, Abu Dhabi, Phase 1 completed 2010
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    Masdar City, Abu Dhabi, Phase 1 completed 2010

    Foster + Partners master-planned an enormous "green" city built around the Masdar Institute, a university specializing in environmental sustainability. The city tests numerous traditional technologies (shaded courtyards) and emerging ones including computer-controlled personal rapid transit and ultimately a 10-megawatt field of solar panels.

    Photograph by Duncan Chard/Bloomberg
  10. Apple’s Campus 2, Cupertino, Calif., 2016
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    Apple’s Campus 2, Cupertino, Calif., 2016

    Foster + Partners designed a 2.8 million-square-foot headquarters for Apple in Cupertino in the form of a four-story ring. Access is through a naturalized, savannah-like site planted with thousands of new trees and into nine lobbies, each with a full-height atrium. The building is clad in full-height sheets of glass throughout, including the four-story-high main cafeteria/restaurant. Parking is buried or located in a massive garage. Solar panels cover the roof.

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