Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities Inaugural Lecture: Norman Foster

Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities Inaugural Lecture: Norman Foster

Good evening,
everyone, and welcome. I’m Ali Malkawi on
behalf of the Harvard Center for Green
buildings and cities and the Harvard
School of design. I am truly honored to introduce
our distinguished guest, Lord Foster, to deliver the inaugural
lecture as we commemorate the center’s first anniversary. Our mission is to transform
the global building industry through a design
centric strategy that links in-depth research to the
development of new processes, systems, and products. We are proud of
the fact that this is the only center of its kind,
pursuing long term objectives through an integrated approach
that focuses on design, and promotes the innovative
use of materials and systems to support sustainability. It’s our firm belief that there
are few, if any, initiatives that would do more to enhance
our planet’s environment and improve the
quality of daily life than to bring green
design and construction into the mainstream. If we are successful, and
we are designed to do so, the impact will be measurable
and experienced worldwide. Toward that end,
the center tonight begins its sponsorship
of an annual lecture within the prestigious
Harvard Graduate School of Design lecture series. Our goal is to inform and
inspire students, faculty, and the public, regarding the
importance of green design, building, and planning. We hope that this
evening becomes another cherished
Harvard tradition, and Lord Foster is
appropriately the first speaker in our series. When it comes to the subject
of green buildings and cities, you may be aware
of the fact that he was a very, very early adopter. In fact, he has been
worldwide leader in green sustainable design and
planning for almost 50 years. Lord Foster is a pioneering
British architect, and the founder and chairman
of Foster and Partners, an internationally acclaimed
firm known for its signature design philosophy that combines
high level of innovations with environmental sensitivity. His list of honors
and those of his firm are simply too long to recite. Instead we included
them in your program. As most of you know,
among those honors is a Pritzker prize, which
is appropriately known as the Nobel Prize
of architecture. I can think of no
one better suited to give voice to members of the
global design profession who embody the intentions
of the center, and whose work is consistent
with our principles we espouse. In addition, Lord Foster’s
experiences, philosophies, projects, and practices
resonate with our students and future generations
of architects, designers, and planners of the
urban landscape. He and his work are well known
in virtually every corner of the world, and our
area is no exception. We have a lot to learn from him. And I know that all of us are
looking forward to his talk. We’ll hear from Lord
Foster in a moment. But first, I would
like to invite my dean, Mohsen Mostafavi,
Dean of the Graduate School of Design, to speak
about Foster for a few minutes. [applause] Thank you, thank you Ali. And congratulations
to you, the center, and really thank you
all for being here. It’s a wonderful evening. I think Norman, there
is no pressure, right? I mean you have to, you have
to now cover everything. It’s really an incredible
opportunity for us to have Lord and
Lady Foster here. They are friends of the school. They’re friends of this area. And I think it’s great
for us to have them here. Just because this is
now a very formal event, perhaps it would be appropriate
for me to be very informal, and to speak just a
little bit personally about my own experience. Because I think, you
know, it’s very, very easy for us to think about the
significant number of projects and buildings. If you think about Stansted
and the importance of that for airport design. If you think about the
HSBC building in Hong Kong, and the importance of
that for office buildings, and the creation
of public spaces. There’s building after
building, project after project that has really
made significant contribution, and that is absolutely certain. And that is very exciting,
and very important. But I want to tell you
that when I was a student, I used to walk along a street
called Great Portland Street, and that is a place where
Norman and his practice had one of their first offices. And they had taken
an existing building, and they had converted the
ground floor of this building. And it was in a way, like a very
big shop, with a shop front. Except that this was a
very special glass facade on the street, and
one got to have a little peek inside the
office, because they had also Venetian blinds
behind the glass. So you could just get a
sense of the interior. And the way in which the
flatness of that glass related to the kind
of existing context of that traditional
street was really something very inspiring. To see how this practice
had really just, with very few moves,
very simple things, try to make their presence
felt in this city. But actually you also got to
see the inside of the office, and you started dreaming
about the kinds of things that they were doing. And they were doing lots
and lots of great things. And this was also about
the sort of period where I think the Willis
Faber building got built. And for those of you who
don’t know this building, I would really recommend
that you have a look at it, because I think it’s one of
the early important buildings of Lord Foster. A building that sits in the
middle of a site in Ipswich and is, again, glass reflective
but with curved corners. Very special, very
unusual building. For me, now, today,
when I was actually thinking about–
welcome– and when I was thinking
about Lord Foster, I realized that this actually–
this period, this moment, the facade of the
office, the Willis Faber, it actually was very important
in terms of the creation, the formation of an aesthetic. Of a kind of look
of an appearance. Which was very particular. There are lots of
other architects of the time who are also
interested in the relationship of technology to architecture. But I think there was something
very specific in the– really the attention to the
simplicity of the pieces that was created during this time. So when I look at the iPhone,
or look at this smartphone, I feel in some ways that
there’s a lot of sympathy in terms of what Jonathan Ives
is doing today with the Apple computers, with the
iPhone, and really the aesthetic that Norman
was thinking about in the 60s and 70s. The other tiny thing
that I say, because I– we all want to
hear from Norman– the other tiny thing is really,
over the years just getting to find out about Lord Foster’s
relationship with Buckminster Fuller, and really how the idea
of each one of his buildings was also something
that represented the idea of a condition
that transcended the individual building, that
the individual building stood for something that was about a
different sense of the future of the role of architecture,
for the built environment. And of course, the sensitivities
towards the whole set of environmental
concerns and conditions, and the very nature of
how things are made. So I think the combination of
being the person who really thought up this idea
of a kind of aesthetic that is so prevalent
today, and that we feel so close to, and really for also
developing an architecture that is so relevant in terms of its
link to the built environment. I think we have a
wonderful inaugural speaker for the Center for Green
Buildings and Cities. So please welcome Lord
Foster of Thames Bank. [applause] I think green is
probably a shorthand for environmental awareness. And the green movement probably
started around 50 years ago. And it was about 50
years ago that I started practicing as an architect. And the issue of sustainability
has been a guiding principle ever since then, right
from the beginning. And I remember saying
at one point, when quizzed on the subject, that
it wasn’t about fashion, it was about survival. The one thing that, perhaps,
stating the obvious, what green is not. It’s not some kind
of magic powder that you can sprinkle
on a project afterwards. Stick a windmill on
top, kind of retrofit. It is right at the
very core of design. And that green thread
is one of many. And if I talk about that,
and I emphasize that, then it should perhaps
be a warning before that, that it’s critically important
issue, but it’s one of many. The social agenda,
the technology as a means to the end,
the role of structure, the constraints of
resources, of cost and time. They’re all woven in. Another thing to
state the obvious is that it’s not some
kind of medicine that’s going to be good
for you, but you’re going to have to suffer
as a consequence. I suggest quite the reverse. That a true green
building actually heightens your awareness
of the elements of nature. It’s rather like the
luxury of a picnic where you choose the
view, dappled shade, and you have the
changes of the seasons. And perhaps in a way, the
birth of the green movement was related to an
escape to nature. A sense of rediscovery. And perhaps the pioneers
such as Rachel Carson who drew attention to the
dangers of chemicals of DDT to the environment, Bucky with
his Spaceship Earth, and that time when perhaps
for the first time, human beings saw the
planet from a distance. So this awareness of the
fragility of the planet, and Bucky, who I was
privileged to work with to collaborate for the
last 12 years of his life, was arguably the
first green architect, although green as
a coined word was to come one decade
later in the 70s. If this is sort of
intuitive awareness as a first stage of the green
movement, then 30 years later, there is an attempt
to quantify that in terms of the environment. And it’s interesting that
there are 28 different rating systems around the globe. And perhaps the earliest one was
Breeam, in the United Kingdom. But the one that has
really penetrated deeper than any other, and
global acceptance, is undoubtedly the
American Leed standard. And it’s quite interesting
just to see the way in which, from the early mid
90s, that proliferated. And you can just see the sort of
ticker tape at the bottom left, of the year, and then the
way in which that has become a kind of standard, globally. And finally, where we are
at this point in time, and the red being the most
sustainable of the rating. But the criteria is
essentially environmental. So it is about the building. And these are the kind of
headlines of the criteria. And important though
these are, they measure the performance
of the building in terms of the environment. And I would suggest that
they’ve been long overtaken by far more important criteria. And that’s not to underestimate
the environmental impact, use of energy, decrease
of pollution. But really, the
true green building is about a much wider, more
holistic view of design. And what is interesting
now is that you can quantify those
aspects which, hitherto, have been much more intuitive. And the criteria of Leed is
very much about a steady state of the environment. And you can measure that
in terms of the blood flow in the zone of the brain
that relates to it. And if you move into an
environment which has change, then it’s quite
interesting that you can measure distinctly increased
patterns of blood flow. In other words, the sky as
an inspiration, which for me, from earliest sketches
as an architect, always looms large
in the picture. And that intuitive feeling
of capturing the sky, of the qualities
of changing light, now is much more quantifiable. And that humanistic,
that poetic, that spiritual
dimension of design is, for me, completely wrapped
up with all the technology of how the building eventually
breathes and communes with nature. In terms of the
health of a building, that is also inseparable
from the use of energy. And it’s interesting that, if
you just look at these charts, then those societies which
are heavy consumers of energy have the lowest infant
mortality, the highest rate of life expectancy,
and also in terms of mental, spiritual, they
offer the greatest potential for development,
political, and sexual freedom. So if we talk a
little about energy, it’s interesting
just to analyze, what are the consumers of energy? And in an industrialized
society their buildings probably account for between
35% to 40% of the energy produced and consumed. And a similar amount is
consumed in the infrastructure. If we think of
the infrastructure as a kind of urban glue
that binds together the individual buildings, and
the communities, the cities, the connections, the public
transport, the bridges, the flights between continents. So that totals in an
industrialized society, probably around
75% of the energy. But if I then move to
the less developed, the emerging economies,
that perhaps is summed up by this
image of Caracas. And the infrastructure
of that highway separates the
ordered world as we know it, the world
we’ve been talking about with the previous images,
and on the left hand side is the informal
settlements which account for a huge
number of people, a huge proportion of humanity. And perhaps it’s just
interesting to contemplate that in that less developed,
emerging world, the amount of energy that we, in this room,
individually consume annually is the equivalent of two people
in Japan, six people in Mexico, 13 people in China,
31 people in India, and 370 people in Ethiopia. And if we talk about the
need– the moral imperative, if you like– to
produce more energy, then we come right
back to Bucky’s dictum. The imperative is to
do more with less. And if there are 1.6 billion
who don’t have access to power, to electricity,
and we have the need to produce more
energy, then it’s how cleanly we
produce that energy. Because there’s a
direct relationship between that pollution
and climate change. And arguably, the strongest
threat to global society, to the planet. And if we talk about
pollution, then we’re likely to think of China,
a city like Beijing. But it’s also easy to
forget that it wasn’t that long ago that London was
exactly the same circumstances. So in 1952, there
was the great smog, and the newspaper
headlines talked about this 30 mile belt
that brought the capital city to a standstill. And it’s interesting
to look back over 50 years in terms
of London as one city, and just see the way in
which the level of pollution, as measured by particles,
with the blue line– excuse me, with the
green line, and sulfur dioxide with the red line. And the big change came
about through an act of parliament, which was called
the United Kingdom Clean Air Act. And you can see that point. And you see that dramatic
drop, and the slight rise in the green line
there, we reckon, is the result of the very
powerful encouragement in Europe towards diesel. And that, of course, links
back into the whole VW scandal and so on, but we won’t
go off in that diversion. I would say that
in terms of energy the blue line above, when
it comes to buildings, I’ve learned over time that the
high tech element symbolized here by those fighters,
that if you really want to make use of
the high technology, then you’ve got to get
the low technology right. And the low technology is
symbolized by the pyramid. And remember, those
fighters in 10 years’ time will be obsolete, and that
technology will move on. So in buildings there
has to be the flexibility to be able to accommodate
those changes of technology. The pyramid is quite
useful in terms of trying to convey a principle. And that is that the
base of the pyramid is about the shape, the volume
of the building, its form. And you get the maximum
environmental gain with a minimum investment. And that as you move towards
the peak of the pyramid, and you’re seeing elements
like the degree of insulation, the ventilation, the
orientation, the shading. And it is, at the
top of the pinnacle, that is the high
technology element. Every year there’s a
prize in Switzerland in my name for solar
energy, to encourage clean, green buildings. And I thought it might
just be interesting to look at this year’s winner. There are two winners. One for new buildings,
and others for recycled, converted buildings. So just looking at the
new one, and applying some of those principles, this
is essentially a compact form. It’s a three story office
building, small office building. And that compact
form, very efficient, and closes the maximum volume
with the minimum amount of surface area. And it’s heavily insulated. It’s triple glazed
and it’s shaded. That is the equivalent
of the lower part of the pyramid, which enables
those photovoltaic cells on the roof to, for the
building, to generate nearly 2 and 1/2 times the amount
of energy that it needs. So it’s feeding 1 and
1/2 times the energy back into the national grid, the
electrical grid of Switzerland. For many, many
years, as a pilot, flight has been an inspiration
in all kinds of ways. And this is one of the many
different types of aircraft that I have flown. For me, it’s highly symbolic. It’s a Caproni two seater. And in 1975 with another pilot,
we set a UK speed record. We went 300 kilometers
at an average speed of 90 kilometers an hour. And that machine is
purely driven by solar. It has no engine, no propeller. And it raises the thought of
the prospect of a building being essentially, for
most of the year, perhaps driven by
the forces of nature. And when we come
to– for me the tree is inspirational, not just
as the ultimate structure, but also symbolic of the
changes of the season, and the way in which
the building breathes, absorbs carbon dioxide. Rather in the way the
traditional shallow plan building breathes. And this going back
50 years was the start of the practice in a residential
apartment in Hampstead. And you open the building,
you open the window for the building to breathe. It was hot you opened it, if
it was cold you closed it. And the challenges of a small
team in a small apartment, what happens when you magnify that? And you want spaces which
are large open deep. Here, our main studio
in London 50 years later captures the view. Sunshine, north-facing, and the
inspiration for that, the model goes back some years earlier. And it was interesting with the
first project of the practice. And it was a small amenity
center in London docks for a Norwegian
company called Olsen’s. And that was portrayed
by the artist Ben Johnson in this painting. And if you peeled
back that facade, which was the first example
in the United Kingdom of high performance glass,
heat and light reflecting, and the deep plan,
highly efficient. So this had a very, very
powerful energy agenda. The light fittings were
coupled to the extract for the ventilation system would
take the heat away at source. And if you pulled it back
this would be the kind of anatomy of the building. Other agendas here,
the social agenda, was very much
about breaking down the barriers between the
workers, the doctors, and management, all under
one roof, which was pretty revolutionary at that time. And we talk about buildings
that breathe and that sit lightly and don’t
disturb the landscape. And an unbuilt project, but
hugely influential at that time was for Olsen’s, in a forest
just outside Oslo, a place called Vestby. Very beautiful forest. And although the
project didn’t happen, it would have relocated
Fred Olsen’s enterprise from downtown Oslo out to
this kind of bucolic setting. And the proposition was that
the buildings would sit lightly, almost like an
insect in the forest. Just touching the ground. And very much about
the theme of light, lightness, touching
the ground gently. And here, the model. But the drawing at that time
was also quite interesting, because it was
about these themes of taking the air from
the cool forest floor, pulling it through the
building, and having this contact with nature,
with the elements reducing the energy, and using mirrors
to bounce sun into the building, and to give that dimension. And I mentioned that
the sketches which recur from when I was a student
were also very, very much about the sky and the humanizing
qualities of sunshine, and the way in which that
might infuse a building. And again, the building
very much about a lifestyle ascending to the roof,
and at the lower level a kind of communal
swimming pool. So a building literally
colored green, and promoting this idea
of energy and lifestyle, and the fact that they could
be a harmonious relationship between them. And the literally landscape
green roof, highly insulating. And the deep plan. So a very, very
efficient building. And this is in the 1970s. Mohsen referred to it earlier. This is the curved–
the glass that is highly reflective during
the day, but very transparent in the night. And perhaps interestingly to
show the way in which we have developed a practice with
greater and greater investment in research. I thought it might be
interesting to show the equivalent of that building
today, which is a project, very advanced stage of construction. It was topped out
a few weeks ago. It’s the headquarters
enclosed here by the red line for Bloomberg. And the heart of
the main building, which is the one on
the left, there’s a public arcade, a
route that cuts right through the building, and is
a continuation of an old Roman road. So again, a lot
of these buildings are also inspired and informed
by the history of the site, the history of the institution,
the company, the museum, whatever. At the heart of that
building is an atrium. And that atrium is the conduit
that pulls the air through. And this is a
breathing building. And here you can see
the movement of the air through to the center. And in terms of anticipating the
performance of this building, we’ve gone about
it in four ways. And I just thought it might be
interesting on this one project just to look at a little more
depth the research behind it. One of the four different ways
of exploring how air will move is to use a water tank model. And this is the
testing facility. That is the per specs model
of a very, very large model that we made with electrical
filaments, to add some heat and excite the
movement of the water, and a very, very short
film just to show how the dye in the
water will simulate the movement of the air,
and pull it through. And for some reason that
animation didn’t seem to work, give it another try. Yes, finally. It was quick. Now you see it, now you don’t. The reality of that
in that atrium, which is very much about
the environmental systems, the pulling of fresh air
through the building, is also the ramp that allows
a pedestrian connection at the heart of the building,
and encourages the flow and the communication
out from this flow. The social dimension is–
this is the pantry floor. Everybody goes to that floor. And then they disperse
to the other floors through the building. The element on the facade that
enables the building to breathe started off originally
as a device that would reduce the
amount of glass, and provide shading to
reduce the solar gain. And in the early
stages of design, the idea of a
breathing building, with a degree of
natural ventilation, a high degree of
natural ventilation, emerged relatively
late in the process. And the one on the
extreme left is the one that doesn’t breathe. It’s just a fixed fin. And then this
exploration of fins is looking at the
engineering implications, and at the same time
exploring the appearance. And the ones that we
didn’t, like some of them were good performers, some of
the ones that we like visually were not so good performers. And finally we end up
right at the extreme right with a high performer, and
we love the appearance. And so it’s this kind of almost
a creative process where you’re going backwards and forwards
between the aesthetics and the environmental
performance. And then, seeking to use test
facilities to explore the– I don’t know why that–
there was an image where it says test section, but
it’s somehow gone missing. But there are two different
attenuators, one a spiral, and one a linear. And again, we set the
performance criteria, and finally we exceed
the performance criteria that we set. And what I’m going to show
you on the next image, which if it does appear as it
should, is a test facility, a small film. And what we did is we
built in a large warehouse, we built part of this space. And you’ll see the warehouse,
you’ll see the enclosure that we created, then you’ll
see the chilled ceiling, which is also the lighting
in the ceiling plane there. You’ll see the equipment
for simulating the climate, to make it warm,
to make it cool. You’ll see smoke entering it
to check the air movement. And you’ll see kind of
robot like cylinders, which are representing
individuals with monitors. And that is the air
movement through the gills. And here’s the– finally. So here you can see
the weather zone. The circular elements
are individuals. The desking is of
the configuration. The fan is bringing the air in. The doors are opening
to the grills. The smoke is coming in to
show the movement of air. It’s being recorded. And then it’s looking
at it in all kinds of different situations,
from winter to summer. But just giving an
insight into the research behind the project. But the most powerful argument
emerges through the studies over a 20 year
period, which looks at the productivity in
terms of individuals, as a result of being in
a building where there is that relationship
to the outside world, in terms of air movement. And if you take the
average of that, that is something like $3,900
per employee, per year. So if you’re talking
about a building which, in the case of one project
I’ll be showing you for Apple. Where you have 12,000
people in one building, you probably have about
4,000 in this building. It’s quite powerful. But interestingly I discovered
when I was putting this together with a
colleague, that it was only I think last week that
from the Department of Public Health, here, there’s been
a study much more focused. And it shows on the brown
bar a conventional building. And then the mid
green is a building with natural ventilation
as a major component. And the super green
is the tall one there. And this is interesting
because for the first time, it’s focused on particular
tasks like orientation, crisis response, seeking information,
breadth of approach, strategy. So again, that is quantified. And those arguments that, in
the end, in terms of health and well being, are
powerful arguments in favor of a
green architecture. And hopefully, we’ll now
see the site with Apple. Thank goodness. So the 24 essentially
become two buildings. The huge amount of tarmac
shrinks to virtually nothing. The landscape is 120
acres, returning it back to the kind of landscape
when it was the fruit bowl of the United States. Nearly 10,000 trees
and more people. And that building is set in
the landscape with something like five miles of trails. And the building
and its setting, about rediscovering the benefits
of the California landscape, like many of these
buildings, will be working with the arid ambient
temperature outside for 75%, 80% of the year. And in terms of
integrated design, this is showing the
movement of the air into the building at
the head of the window, and the structural
elements which integrate the cooling tubes
and the voids to also move air. The building around a
mile in circumference. But in terms of connectivity
and communication, of course one single
building rather than 24 spread over the entire
site, is essentially a compact building and brings
us back to that pyramid. So the form of the building
is very, very important in terms of its energy. And this building produces
exactly the amount of energy that it consumes. So it’s independent
in those terms. If I go back to a building,
which was our first breathing building, this was a combined
museum for a private collection at the University
of East Anglia, called the Sainsbury
Center, which under its roof also encompassed a
school of fine art. And the structural zone around
that pulls in the from outside, and the tubular form of the
building captures the view. And as you can see
it’s very, very much about natural light, and the
expression of that building in the landscape. And here you can see the roof
lights and its connections to the world of aviation. And the technology is
related to that world. And it was, in many
ways, the model for a generation of airports
that would follow from that. And the mission of
the first airport was to question the then
traditional form of a terminal. And this was typical, it’s
Heathrow terminal four, but it could have been any
terminal around the world at that time. And by questioning the
separation by the roof and all the heavy services
and machinery, which essentially cut out
any connection with nature by literally turning
it upside down. Putting all that heavy equipment
underneath the main concourse, and opening up the roof
to sunshine and light, great savings of energy. But also a much more
human, poetic experience. Again the contact with nature. And so if that
was revolutionary, and a model which has
since been adopted, we’ve developed it much further. So occasionally a
project will completely rethink a building type,
and then the designs which will follow, explore
that and develop it in an evolutionary way. And I could give– I
could relate that back to other worlds of design. So in that evolutionary
phase, Hong Kong airport is a kind of step along the way. The structure and the lighting
are part of the orientation. And this is a
building constructed on a very rapid program, on a
site which really didn’t exist. It was sea water. So the site had to be created. And I describe it
with its connections to the world outside. And nature above
as a kind of analog experience in a digital world. And taking that a
step further, Beijing airport, something
like 2 and 1/2 times the size of
Hong Kong, currently the largest in the world. And again, that roof plays
a major environmental role, but it also is highly
symbolic in terms of its color, the color of the
roofs of the Forbidden City, and referred to by the locals as
dragon like in its experience. And also the use of color and
so the gateway to a nation, and evocative of many of
the symbols of that nation. At this particular point,
with the opportunity for a competition for a
terminal, Mexico City. It was the chance
to make a leap, a kind of– another
revolutionary leap, and to say, would it be possible to
take away the columns? This has a roof, it has vertical
window walls, it has columns. It has things that
reach out to aircraft. Would it be possible
to do one membrane that would eliminate the columns,
and really do everything? If these are 36 meter spans,
something like 120 feet, could we make the leap
to much larger spans? 340, 570. And that was the
move, and this is the project, which makes that
leap is now in detail design, will be starting on
site early next year. And just to give a feel
for the aesthetics of this as a terminal as a
space, this kind of fly through will give some flavors
of the scale, the light, the lightness, the
quality of that light as one moves through it. And the way in which
that single membrane can form the supports
to the ground, and the ground conditions
in Mexico City being– it’s really like a kind of
moist, lake-like strata, and an earthquake. So this as a structural
form is very forgiving, and can move with the ground,
with the ground movement. So it’s very much of its place. Those projects also
owe much from the past in terms of the exploration
with large span structures. The British Museum and the
way in which the heating and cooling elements
are threaded literally into the very fabric
of the building. But a lot of these explorations
have emerged over time. And the roots of the way
in which this as a space is heated and cooled is
embedded in the floor, and goes back to 1965,
with a small factory, electronics factory. Which also, in terms of its
social agenda at that point, was bringing management
and the assembly line under one roof as a
democratic pavilion. And in this cutaway,
you can see the way in which those small bore pipes,
which as a means of discreetly heating and cooling, creating
a very, very large radiator in the form of the floor. These have developed
over that 50 year period, and are particularly relevant
in the case of how you climate control a historic building,
without compromising the history and the
fabric of the building. And the Reichstag,
as a competition to create the
symbolic parliament, putting the public
above the politicians. A very powerful
ecological agenda. A manifesto, if you like,
for renewable energy. And here you can see the way
in which the light is reflected into the chamber deep below, and
the various technologies which come together to
make that possible. So it’s biomass,
photovoltaics, aquifers deep below the ground,
and all of those, with very powerful
encouragement of a culture. Although this was
not part of the brief any more than the public space. So that was something as
architects, as advocates, we were able to bring to bear. And it’s perhaps no
accident we also, in this German environment,
which was very much pro-sustainability,
were able to create the world’s first skyscraper
that would breathe. And If we were talking about
a 94% reduction in carbon with the Reichstag, we’re
talking about a 50% reduction here. This is in the late 1990s. And literally the
gardens in the sky where the green lungs
of the building. And here you can see with
the red line, the window that opens, and which gives
this natural ventilation to everybody within
the building. And that is working
at ambient temperature for 85% of the year. This was the competition
sketch that preceded it. And another building in which
the green lungs of the building spiral around. And here you can see the way
in which the windows open to give that degree
of ventilation, to reduce the energy. But also, in all
of these buildings that also very much about
how the city will connect. And here the potential to have
downward and outward views, as well as the conventional,
horizontal view. So very much about the quality
of life for the occupants of the building. And the first LEED accredited
gold standard in New York was our Hearst building here,
using a lot of recycled steel. And where everything is working
as part of the ecological plan. So the water feature
there by Jamie Carter. The cascade is also part
of the cooling system which is taking away waste heat,
converting it into cooling. So it’s a holistic view. And also using the
historic base hollowed out as the kind of social heart, the
entrance that brings together all the different magazine
titles in the Hearst organization. And perhaps the first
of these high rises was the Hong Kong bank. And the radical thing there,
the revolutionary element, was to take the traditional
center core of the building and split it, and move
it to the outer edges, so that you would see
through the building, and you would have
open deep space. The ability to create a dealer’s
floor, for example, which they did late in the life
of the building, and the way in which
the mirrors, which you saw in that
forest in Norway, are used here to
deflect sunlight deep into the heart of the space. And that building,
with its undercroft, its view down to the
public space below. Looking down, which is a kind
of great venue at the weekends, a community comes
together under there. So all of these buildings,
each in their different ways, connects with the
infrastructure of the city. And that infrastructure which
I referred to earlier, again considerations of
that are inseparable from the sustainability
of cities. And how, if we’ve talked about
the individual buildings, then looking at
the infrastructure that binds those
buildings together. This graph shows
that as you reduce the density, and
the cities sprawl, like Atlanta, Houston,
Los Angeles, Detroit, the energy consumption
kind of explodes. The most sustainable cities, in
terms of the minimising the use of energy are our higher
density communities, given that they have good mix
of use, good public transport, they’re pedestrian
friendly, high density. So anything you can do
with an existing city to improve those
qualities will improve its level of sustainability. And if we just
looked at the carbon footprint of those
different kinds of cities. So London, Marce, and
Hong Kong, high density. Compared with Atlanta, low
density, very high consumption of energy. And we look at the
footprint of those cities, and we compare it with
the footprint of Atlanta. You see that London has the
same population as Atlanta, but its carbon footprint
is one seventh of Atlanta. And you put those three
cities, and you still have a footprint which
is smaller than Atlanta. So again, if you take
a city like Marce, and you can improve, make
it more pedestrian friendly, improve the quality
of public transport. Marce started around
its historic port, and it lost that connection
by ill planned roads that consumed some of the most
desirable elements of the city. And our work there,
which is a 20 year plan, we’ve done the first four
or five years of that. And here you can see the
transformation of that area, and a new kind of
outdoor cafe life has returned back to the port. There are individual small
buildings that we’ve done, I just show one here, which
is a kind of market hall, and it just has a
reflective ceiling, in polished stainless
steel, which again, gives a kind of playful element. And it’s very much
about bringing back the people to the port. And I could also talk
about in infrastructure, the intervention of a highway,
and the way in which that might reduce the environmental
impact and improve levels of sustainability. And in an area not too far
from here in the Tarn valley, we did a viaduct. And the viaduct tackled
the issue of the main route from Paris to Perpignan. And a small part of that
route was incomplete, so the traffic would build up
through a neighboring village, and the traffic would
build up to five hour jams, 20 miles in length. And this project, which was
our viaduct, tackled that. But the object was also
to create something that might be beautiful, to
demonstrate that you could make that physical
intervention, and it might be something that
was desirable to see. And the dialogue between that
and the natural world, this is something like seven–
the tallest support here is 17 meters higher
than the Eiffel Tower. So it is the highest motorway
as an elevated structure. And if you just took the
statistics for the heavy goods vehicles, and ignored
all those cars, and you translated in a year,
the 40,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide that would be reduced
by eliminating those five hour delays, then that
is the equivalent of planting something
like 40,000 trees or taking 115,000 cars
out of the system. So unexpectedly a motorway,
which you would never think of as being a
symbol of sustainability, is exactly that. And coming back to
the city and making it more friendly,
more sustainable, some years back we
tackled Trafalgar Square. This was a
metropolitan-wide project, because just to make
a small improvement in the heart of the city had
far reaching consequences, right out to the very
edge of the metropolis. So that was the space which most
people have now long forgotten, because memories are short,
and the body of that space was totally isolated
from its surroundings. So now with that
intervention, it becomes a much
more noble setting for the historic buildings. And if we look at
another intervention, again in terms of improving the
quality of life in the city. This is our Millennium Bridge,
the first pedestrian bridge on the axis of St Paul’s. Which also brought a new level
of prosperity and connectivity. And using computer predictions,
this was the model. You can see the
dark horizontal line across that, which
is the Thames. This is before. And the effect of that
bridge is quite profound. It’s brought a kind
of ripple effect, and a new level of
prosperity to the area. If you moved out through
the Thames estuary to the right of that image, on
the black line of the river, that is the site
for a project which is currently under
way for a wind farm, which will power something
like 500,000 homes, and is a joint venture
between Abu Dhabi and London. And in Abu Dhabi,
we hear we see here the project which is
under construction at the moment, which is a
hundred megawatt concentrated power. These are not
photovoltaics, these are parabolic mirrors,
which concentrate the energy of the
sun, focus that on a tube through which
there is a liquid, heats that up to something
like 730 degrees centigrade. And that powers a turbine, which
then generates electricity. This is the outcome, one of
many experiments from the Masdar project that we did. And the Masdar project
has a small film here. This film is a mixture of
virtual reality and reality. So some parts of it, like this,
is exactly what is there now. Other parts like
this little bit are from the original
renderings, the sort to show what it would be
like when it was constructed. So it’s a mixture
of those things that goes between virtual
reality, anticipate redesign, and what is actually
there and happening. This is now a community
of several hundred. In a very, very
short space of time, it will be several thousand. And it’s growing. It’s growing by the day. It uses a number of
quite traditional devices which have come out of a
study of indigenous buildings. Here you can see how
it is now, still shots. And we move through. You’ll see some of
the work spaces. The Masdar Institute
is devoted to the study of renewable energies. To a world beyond fossil fuels. This is reality
here that you see. This is virtual reality. And it learns– it is getting
that base technology in such a way that the photovoltaics
that drive that then can give the improved
quality, the performance. And placing at night is a very
energy intensive building, because essentially
it’s laboratories. And they’re 24 hours. They’re very heavy
consumers of energy. And it is this 10 megawatt
solar farm that is primarily driving this project. And if this is one
kind of experiment, then looking at
another experiment to explore the way
in which, perhaps, one of those
informal settlements might be transformed
without actually bulldozing the community,
and kind of starting again. All of which for the most
part been social failures. And so the site is a
suburb of Mumbai, Dharavi, is under 75 hectares. It’s about the
size of Hyde Park. It’s a million people. Very, very high density. And Nerinda, who’s on the front
row here, and a colleague, went out there and engaged
with the local community. And some of the
questions that they asked was, in the yellow
ring building there, why that building,
as a new response. Because the city authorities has
had cleared part of the site, and erected 14 story buildings. And they were vacant and empty. And so Nerinda here, part of the
team with that local community, and asking those
questions, and finding out what made this community take. What kind of spaces were
needed for the activities that sustained their
recycling activities? The pottery making,
the bread making. And what was behind
those facades? And postulating that perhaps
by the discreet insertion of services, and clearing
away a few buildings, creating some more public space. But essentially, respecting
the physical arteries and the social arteries
of the community. And here, taking
one of those spaces and exploring the
potential to insert those vital services that would
transform the quality of life. It was also suggested in
one of the conversations on the subject, with an
industrialist, that perhaps that was important. But even more important would be
to raise the quality of living by an input of
technology, and to provide facilities to improve
the quality of life in the rural countryside. And to halt, to slow down
the influx into the cities. And that led to a concept which
has been a personal interest over many decades. That is, what would happen
if in instead of buying all those individual consumer
items, the fridge which projects waste heat,
which is thrown away from the back of the machine. If you could harness
and integrate all these different elements
into one kind of heart unit, and then you connected
that to solar, and you use the lessons of
the automotive industry. So that I think is interesting. And all of these
kind of research, experimental projects,
some of the inspirations come from techniques that we’ve
developed within the practice. So for example, pioneering
with universities, the use of three
dimensional printing, led the European Space
Agency to approach us about a project for
lunar dwellings. And that project uses a
combination of technologies to be able to take the
minimum amount of equipment out to the moon, and
the element which detaches itself
creates an inflatable, there’s a robot which mixes
the lunar dust called regolith, mixes it with an adhesive
which is flown out. And the three dimensional
printer using inspirations from bone cells,
animal cells, to create a very, very strong
structure that would resist the
impact of meteorites, would handle something like the
400 degree temperature changes. And that technology that we
developed there, interestingly, provided some of
the clues, working with the elements on
the moon’s surface, some of the clues for a
project in Africa. Again, this one with
Nerinda who’s on the left there with the school
kids that he was teaching, drawing in Sierra Leone. And that project led
to the current concept of combining the kind of high
technology of drones, which we associate with killing
and violence and wars, and turning them to
humanitarian purposes. To deliver in Africa, to
leapfrog the infrastructure. Which will, arguably,
will it ever catch up in a continent which is the
second largest population of 1.2 billion. And by 2050 will have doubled. And by that time one in
four people on the planet will be African. And so that, it’s
worth just raising the issue of infrastructure
to deliver medical supplies. So if we say that
one-third of that continent live within two kilometers
of an all season road, then Nerinda’s little
video clip here shows what an all
season road is. So that is the
infrastructure network. And as somebody said, if a child
is dying through lack of blood, and waiting for a transfusion,
then the drone, as a concept, would cut this down, this travel
time, down to 1/10 of the time. There is Nerinda going to
school for his drawing class. And so, just the need
for– if it was not delivering vital parts,
perhaps to repair a pump which a community might be
dependent upon for water, and they can’t get it until
the spare part is delivered. But particularly
the issue of blood. And the potential for the drone. Two types of drone. One which could deliver with
a range of 50 kilometers, a payload of 10 kilos. Which would be 20 transfusions. And the larger drone with
a much larger payload, that would be much more
about delivering larger items and freight. And the country that the project
will take off in is Rwanda. Three drone ports. The sites have been identified. The administration
is sympathetic. It’s a joint venture
between foundations. And university EPFL in Lausanne. And an individual who’s an
African expert who was head hunted by the university. And so that, the
connection of course here, with the lunar project,
is that on the moon, you are having to use the
materials that were to hand, and you were using robots. Here you want to create
job opportunities. You want to be able
to empower a community to be able to develop an
industry buildings, not just the drone ports. But a building
type that would be appropriate for schools, for
libraries, for medical centers, for civic market halls. And so it would be exporting
the machinery and the kilns, if bricks were not, or tiles,
ceramics available locally. And so that’s the
parallel between the two. Because it is working with the
materials that are to hand. And the final film clip has just
been a part of a larger film, to convey the essence
of the project. The peaceful use of a
drone to deliver a payload. And the way in
which the drone port would be a kind of
community building that would be a gathering point. And so in this country,
with millions and millions of mobile phones, where
everybody has access to that as communication,
the idea of this drone being a catalyst, and
a catalyst for change, and development, and
self empowerment. That’s the last image. And it works. So thank you. [applause] Well thank you so much
for this great lecture, as well as for also
amplifying our message. I mean, this is fantastic,
to see 50 years, and to see how wonderful it
is from going from point A to point Z. And we have teams
like long journey to go. So thank you so
much one more time. We’ve actually asked
some of our students to prepare some questions. So we have three
from our students will be asking questions
to Lord Foster who will call in the
students, and then we’ll open it up to the public for
some more other questions as Lord foster can take
them, if you wish to do so. So the first one is [? ven ?]
[? chandel ?], if he’s around, yes, please. Good evening. Thank you for this
amazing lecture. So in the actual context
when the speed of changes has become exponential, and when
successful responses require that same amount of power
and speed to be effective, what is, in your opinion, and
after your experience, the most effective way, if there is any
other apart from architecture itself, to communicate
to the society more than to the
architects, the importance of an architectural agenda
for energy, or a green agenda. And what is the main driver to
achieve significant changes? Thank you. Thank you. Before I answer the
question, I just noticed that John Ochsendorf
is on the front row, here so that’s a very powerful
connection on that Droneport project. Because John will be
one of the engineers here at Harvard who will be
collaborating on the project. So it’s a very, very
nice connection. But just to come
to your question. I think it’s a really
interesting question. And in the end, it is
about the power of advocacy to raise the level, not just
at a professional, level but at the public level as
you quite rightly state. I don’t think there is
really one simple answer. If there is a simple answer, it
has to be the political domain. And I think that is
the professions who engage with those
issues, and I think that one of the things
that concerns me is that the issues of those
informal settlements, nobody really feels
responsible for them. I don’t think the professions
at large see it as architecture. I know a number of my colleagues
don’t see it as architecture. They think it’s crazy
that one gets involved in those kind of issues. For me it’s at the
essence of architecture. May not be high architecture
in that descriptive terms. But if I think of cities
which have been transformed through the intelligent
introduction of infrastructure, good public transport,
and sustainable models, it’s interesting
that in those cities, in those communities, the
architects who are not practicing as
designing architects, but have moved into
the political domain, and are able to be influential
in their communities, in some cases as mayors
or deputy mayors– and that’s certainly the case
in some of the South American countries that one can cite
as enlightened examples. And it’s very much the case
of the city Bill Bower, where we won a competition
for a metro system. And that has had a
transformative effect. And in a way, pave the
way for that community to take those initiatives
which led to the Guggenheim, Frank Gehry’s
building for example. So also, if I think
of an individual that I’ve recently met
and spent some time with, a guy called Paul Drayson,
who is an inventor, and interestingly has
been very influential as a science minister in
a previous administration in the UK. And he was showing me the
power of an app, an application on an iPhone. And this is a device
that he’s invented, and we’ve been
helping him promote it by making a short
film to explain it. And what it enables
the individual to do is to see the level of pollution
immediately in the individual’s environment. So you can look at that and
you can see what it was, and you could compare that,
if that city had clean air monitors, whether those monitors
were really telling the truth. He described it as saying that
the smoking habits changed when individuals realized
that it wasn’t just their smoke that might be
affecting their health. And his point was, if you
increase the level of awareness by gauges, then that would kick
start quite radical action. So I think a number of
initiatives, and obviously any of the technologies
which together could create a more sustainable environment. [inaudible] Yep. There’s a lot of focus
of using computation in form finding for buildings,
and then solving them for energy efficiency. You seem to have the
opposite approach. In your practice
you’ve used technology extensively to investigate
the interaction between energy and build mass. To what extent does
this understanding of energy as a force
play a role in shaping the form of your buildings? I’d say that the form
of the buildings, in the way that I have tried
to describe it in this talk, you’re absolutely
correct in your analysis that the computer has
played a major role in terms of anticipatory design. The ability to be
able to harness the power of the
computer to explore the environment and movements,
and to create buildings which are more efficient,
which are more joyful, which are more pleasurable. But behind the scenes, if you
were, and I’d encourage you to, if you’re interested to follow
it up, to visit our studio and to see some of the ways in
which we do, in other manners, explore form,
explore structures. And being able to
simultaneously look at them in terms of
structural efficiency, environmental
efficiency, and literally to be able to hold
these models, to create three dimensional models and
say, which is more beautiful, which is more elegant? And to get that balance. So we can do things
with computers, that we could not do
that many years ago. But also, one needs
to remind oneself that the computer is
a tool like a pencil, and it’s as good as the person
that’s pushing the pencil, or driving the computer. So far it’s not
creative it itself. And if we want
proof of the ability to create buildings of
extraordinary plastic sculpture, you look
at the work of Gaudi and the great
cathedral builders. And it was an age before
anybody had a computer. And I think many of those
things we would have difficulty doing today with computers. One last question from
our student Sabrina. Good evening. Thank you for being here. In your work, you emphasize
a systems approach to performance evaluation,
including complicated variables such as transportation
and telecommunications, and energy distribution models. In the vein of your
collaborator Buckminster Fuller, the principle to do
more and more with less is in the service of
furthering human evolution. In today’s complex
world, how can we begin to understand the goal
of furthering this evolution. What is it that we
want more and more of? And how can we quantify
it in terms of energy use? I think that if I moved
away from my world as an architect, where I
engage with other disciplines, and I listen to what some
research scientists say to me when I meet
with my colleagues, and I meet these
extraordinary individuals, and talk about the
kinds of buildings that are appropriate for them, the
mantra that kind of repeats itself is, we expect that
you’ll be able to get the laboratories to work. The liquids and the
gases will all appear. The real challenge that
you have as an architect is to create buildings
that will break down the barriers between the
different disciplines. And that’s very much
about the social spaces. It’s about the
chance interaction. And so some of
these buildings have been designed in such a way
that the circulation encourages the chance encounter. And many of the
scientific breakthroughs have happened in
the social spaces, not in the laboratories. They’ve happened over a coffee. And the reason that
they’ve done that is because the different
disciplines have come together. Which brings me back
to my primary response to your question, and that is
that the future and that way of working is about the
different disciplines coming together. The interaction between
those disciplines. And this is the opposite of the
way in which many designers are taught. That they can design
and then, as it were, hand out the parcel to
somebody else to make it work. And that for me is
the opposite of what is the creative process. For me the creative
process and my colleagues, and the whole sort of
50 years or whatever, is built on sparking off
between different disciplines. If there’s a symbol,
it’s the round table. Great. Thank you. Just in the interest of
time, we will take probably one or two more questions
from the audience. We also don’t want to
strain Lord Foster. So any question
from the audience? Can’t see. There we go. One. Lord Foster, and I
think that you just spoke to this a
little bit, I’m very interested in the
aspect of sustainability which includes social equity. I don’t think that we can have
a sustainable world unless it’s sustainable for everyone. I wonder if you
could speak to that. I’d say that– I could take you
through each of those projects, and the emphasis would
be the social agenda. I wouldn’t mention
a word about energy. I never use the word green. I could describe
as 50 years work, trying to create
places and spaces that are truly democratic,
that break down barriers. Initially between in that tiny
factory, challenging the we and they, the posh, the
scruffy, the front, the back, the management box,
the worker’s shed. The creation of a
democratic pavilion. The building in Olson. I was told the
dockers are dirty, they swear the
secretaries will walk out. You can never put them
even near each other. You couldn’t even do two
buildings close to each other. They’re under the same roof
and it just worked like magic. But it was a very daring
social experiment at the time, although we never would
have used those words. And the greening of
the city, opening up spaces for entertainment,
for social interaction. Each of those buildings has
a very, very strong agenda. And I think that part of
our task, the Reichstag, for example, the
politicians who, for the first time
in their lives, had to find common ground. Because normally, they’re
not doing their job unless they’re disagreeing
with each other, and arguing. So for the first time, they
have to find consensus. And as somebody said,
why would anybody ever want to go to the
roof of the Reichstag? And if they went
there, why would they want to have a coffee? And then the next thing I
hear is, it’s so popular, the architect underestimated
the amount of size for the restaurant. And we can’t get a
coffee, because there are too many people. So I think that you
have, intentionally or otherwise, I think,
identified a very, very strong thread through all
of these projects. Great. On that note I think
we will end here. I just want to thank Lord
Foster one more time. We’re so lucky to have you here. Thank you so much. [inaudible] Thanks,
everyone, for attending. And I hope we will see you
next time at our next lecture. Thank you so much.

7 thoughts on “Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities Inaugural Lecture: Norman Foster

  1. Very amazing talk and show a great combination of sustainable and technology in an architecture what foster said is deserve to contemplate, thanks for the sharing

  2. I would like to see this talk given again after they had to include 10,000+ (?) parking spaces to the Apple campus; no more connection to nature with that much pavement. How do we balance the difference in some of the these hyper idealized proposals (Apple being wholly unrealistic), and severe limitations in ability to be energy efficient due to restrictive codes and zoning requirements that don’t facilitate or encourage a deviation from the norm (pun intended 🤷🏻‍♂️).

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