The master builder

He has been responsible for some of the most recognisable buildings and structures around the world. And as his firm turns 50, Lord Norman Foster tells EG that, even in his 80s, he is still embracing change

What would the world look like if, as an architect, you could tell people what to do?

“I’d like to think it would be a better place,” says Lord Norman Foster. “Because design – and I mean enlightened design – can make a difference for good.”

It is a comment on the profession so simple, so pared back and so innocuous that from almost any other architect it would sound tediously predictable. Even a little trite. But Foster is not any other architect.

One of the most prolific designers in the world, the 81-year-old has a reputation that stretches beyond the boundaries of the industry’s often impermeable inner sanctum. Respected and revered by many outside the design community as well as those within it, he has reach and kudos that mean people listen when he speaks. And that, he concedes, is a huge responsibility.

“There are important messages to get out there,” he says. “So I feel a responsibility to use powers of communication. And in different ways: through my work as a designer, through leading other designers, by creating teams, by giving talks. I want to get certain messages out to younger generations, too. In…

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