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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?

30 st Mary Axe or Swiss Re Building in London UK- designed by Norman Foster.

Movie Review
How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster
 (2011 documentary about architect Norman Foster)
currently streaming on Netflix

Buckminster Fuller and Norman Foster hangin' out.

  SPOILER ALERT: The title is a comment that American philosopher/crazy person Buckminster Fuller made to architect Norman Foster when they were palling around.

This is an example of Gothic Architecture.

  As  anyone who wants to write art criticism, or for that matter, read it- needs to understand that architectural criticism provides much of the vocabulary and ideas about Art that are used by critics of other art forms besides architecture.  To give two well know examples, the phrase "Gothic" was used by John Ruskin to describe certain designs that characterize medieval buildings and directly inspired the Gothic revival of the mid to late 19th century.  The other example is the phrase "post-modern" which is commonly used to describe art works from all sorts of artists in every discipline.  Originally, if you called something "post-modern" you were talking about a building, not a book or a record.

   Thus, the movie How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster, is a biographical film about an Artist, the architect Norman Foster.  Norman Foster has to be among the most famous and prolific of all active architets in the entire world.  His rise has been highlighted by structures he has built in places like China, Hong Kong and the Gulf States of the Middle East.   Perhaps the tone of self-satisfied triumphalism that pervades How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr Foster? can be excused on the grounds of the massive scale of Foster's success on a planet-wide scale.

John Spoor Broome Library, California State University Channel Islands, designed by Norman Foster

   If you are looking for critical engagement about the wisdom of building the "largest building in the world" (Bejing Airport Terminal) for a repressive dictatorship or the likelihood of success for a project that involves constructing a self-contained eco paradise for 80,000 people in one of the Persian Gulf statelets, this is not the movie for you.

Commerzbank Tower vom Rathenauplatz designed by Norman Foster


       A movie about Norman Foster could do in a whole other direction in the sense that his work can be seen as a harbinger of the kind of soulless corporate modernism familiar from books like 1984 or Brave New World.

The redesigned German Reichstag by Norman Foster.

 However, Norman Foster does not operate wholly above politics.  As an example, when Germany asked him to redesign the Reichstag(!) in the aftermath of the reunification of Germany, he rejected the idea of restoring what was there before, and left hateful Russian graffiti where it lay- choosing to keep the vandalism as a reminder of the past.

  That is just how Norman Foster rolls, OK?

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