Future Positive: Norman Foster, Foster + Partners

Presented in collaboration between the Seoul Museum of Art and Foster + Partners, Future Positive: Norman Foster, Foster + Partners (April 25–July 21, 2024) introduces the renowned architect Norman Foster to Korean audiences for the first time. The largest of its kind in Asia, this exhibition offers a comprehensive overview of the illustrious career of Foster and the activities of Foster + Partners, the practice he founded in 1967. Based in the United Kingdom, Foster + Partners boasts a global presence. Of the over 500 projects led by the practice, from the 1960s to the present, Future Positive pays particular attention to the studio’s significant contributions to public spaces for culture and the arts, including art galleries and museums. Notably, the exhibition highlights Foster and the practice’s forward-thinking ethos, tracing their early commitment to sustainability and visionary outlook for the future.

Born in 1935 in Manchester, England, Norman Foster studied architecture and urban planning at the University of Manchester before earning his master’s degree from the Yale School of Architecture. It was at Yale where he crossed paths with fellow British architect Richard Rogers. With sisters Wendy Cheesman and Georgie Wolton, they established Team 4 in 1962. Together, they embarked on pioneering projects that leveraged the cutting-edge technologies of the era, including the Reliance Controls project of 1967. Transitioning from Team 4 after a four-year tenure, Foster and Cheesman – now married – co-founded Foster Associates, laying the foundation for what would eventually become Foster + Partners. Today, the firm stands as a global architectural powerhouse with a headcount of over 2,000 individuals. Incorporating dozens of specialized in-house teams across the genres of architecture, urban design, engineering, industrial design, interior design, urban and landscape design, and research and development, Foster + Partners has reshaped urban landscapes and redefined contemporary living through transformative projects like the Great Court of the British Museum, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank Headquarters in Hong Kong, Apple Park in the United States, and London Stansted Airport.

While Norman Foster is widely renowned as a trailblazer of innovative and technology-focused architecture, known for drawing upon advanced engineering and computer technology, this exhibition focuses on his and Foster + Partners’ commitment to sustainability as a fundamental philosophy underpinning the practice. Since the 1960s, Foster’s work has extended beyond technological innovation to designing environmental masterplans and carbon-neutral cities, and exploring the utility and user experience of living environments. This practice, along with future-facing visions for new modes of building and living, profoundly influences his approach to his most widely-known and large-scale projects. Future Positive, conceived as part of the Seoul Museum of Art’s 2024 agenda on architecture, offers a wider examination of the experiments by Norman Foster and Foster + Partners. By bridging past achievements with contemporary aspirations, it aims to inspire new thinking and imaginations of the coming future.

Future Positive is structured into five sections: Introduction to Sustainability, Culture + Retrofit, Wellbeing + Technology, Public + Placemaking, and Future. It features an array of over 300 artifacts from 50 significant projects, ranging from architectural models to drawings, videos, and archives. Norman Foster and Foster + Partners remain ever optimistic and enthusiastic about the future because they work to seamlessly integrate forward-looking research findings into present-day practice, thereby establishing a virtuous loop and nestling the built environment in harmonious coexistence with its surroundings. This pursuit of sustainability amid temporal and physical transformations reflects an idealistic philosophy informed by meticulous analysis and research. Above all, their narrative of change is distinguished by their uncompromising emphasis on the needs of people and planet.

Link sema.seoul.go.kr