Mori Art Museum, Tokyo
Jan 1 – Feb 14, 2016

Currently exhibiting at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, is the insightful exhibition ‘Foster + Partners: Architecture, Urbanism and Innovation’
providing a fascinating insight into the breadth of work of British architect Norman Foster and his architecture firm and design studio.

Champ contributor and Tokyo-based Architecture Consultant Keith Little visits the exhibition,
which is the largest presentation of the architecture firm’s work in the Southern Hemisphere.

Beijing Airport and Mexico City Airport

Beijing Airport and Mexico City Airport:

Models for the Beijing Airport (below) and Mexico City Airport (above) showing the innovative layout which both maximizes the number of gates, and creates a large flexible interior, a technique pioneered by Foster in the famous Stantead Airport. The Beijing Airport was inspired by the colors and mythic iconography of China, especially the red color and the triangular clerestory windows in the roof reminiscent of dragon scales.


Zayed National Museum

Zayad National Museum:

So light they seem like a pastry, it’s easy to forget that these are study models for enormous wings rising above the museum. Foster goes so big sometimes he seems to be playing with the forces of nature. The dramatic shifts in scale these models bring to mind is a real pleasure.


Willis Building

Willis Building:

Designed in 1970 and rightfully famous for aging well. The Willis Building now historically listed, but this model brings home how shockingly forward the building was, and how contemporary it still looks.




Towers have to resist high wind forces and gravity, and Foster’s towers read like diagrams of this energy being transmitted to the ground. Very nice to see these icons with Tokyo’s cityscape in the background.


Sainsbury Center

Sainsbury Center:

This meticulous handmade model of the Sainsbury Center shows one of the earliest examples of Foster’s large, flexible floor plans. The truss structure is showcased, not hidden, and shows how a good model can sometimes express things better than drawings or computer renderings.




These study models for the dome installed in the Reichstag in Berlin give a sense of relentless iteration. The dome was built as a symbolic public space, putting the people above politicians and bringing light and visibility to the workings of government. The final design has light structural lines, spiraling ramps, and a mirrored cone to reflect light downward. Wonderful to see in their various stages of development.


Millenium Tower

Millennium Tower:

The Millennium Tower was commissioned by Obayashi Corp. and designed by Foster in 1989 as a 170 floor arcology, or self-contained human biome to be built in Tokyo Bay. Though a product of the 80′s bubble economy, it looks undated and iconic next to the more recent and realized work.


Einstein Museum

Einstein Museum:

These playful and exceptional study models showcase Foster and Partners remarkable facility with 3D printing. They stand alone quite nicely, looking like alien artifacts or microscopic organisms.


Canary Wharf

Canary Wharf:

The influence of Buckminster Fuller on a young Norman Foster can be seen in the patterns of his structural frames, and this is a good example. These 3D printed models show several design options for the lattice tube surrounding the rail station, which was actually made from timber and fabric. Playing with both large spatial gestures and the perforations in the shell allows the station to relate to the interior spaces and give rhythm to the facade.


All images  © Keith Little