The characteristics that distinguish Foster's work are his constant compromise with the noblest values in architecture, his open approach to innovation, his thoroughness in all phases of a project, his use of state-of-the Art technology, the magnitude of his career and his compliancy with the principles of sustainable development.
This candidacy was put forward by Alfonso Vegara, President of the Metropoli Foundation (Spain).
Norman Foster was born in 1935 in Manchester (United of Kingdom) to a working-class family. At the age of 21 he began his architecture studies, which he financed by taking different jobs. After graduating in 1961 at the Manchester University School of Architecture and City Planning, he moved to the United States where he was granted a scholarship to Yale University. There he learnt about the work of such personalities as Lloyd Wright and Kahn, who influenced him significantly. His interest in technology and in overcoming the distance between technology and the building industry came to being in 1966, when he carried out a project for a factory in Wiltshire. In 1967 he founded Foster Associated, a studio which focuses on town planning and objects related to building, with its head office in London and where some of his most outstanding work has been carried out. In 1999 its name changed to Foster and Partners. He currently leads a team of a thousand professionals, with branches in more than 20 countries.
What made him famous was the Bank of Hong Kong and Shanghai, in 1985, a glass skyscraper of 47 floors that stand out for the functionality in its spaces, its natural lighting and its use of technology as a construction tool. In 1988 he was assigned the construction of the metro system in Bilbao (inaugurated in 1995), and the communications tower of Collserola in Barcelona (on Tibidabo), which was vital for the 1992 Olympic Games. Some of his most representative works are the new terminal at London's third airport (Stansted, Essex), the glass dome of the restored Reichstag in Germany, the new Commerzbank headquarters in Frankfurt (Germany) with 62 floors, the dome in the Great Court of the British Museum (London), Swiss Re's headquarters tower (London), the Sage Gateshead centre for music (United Kingdom), the Millennium Bridge (London) and the Carré d´Art (Nimes).
Norman Foster has also built the world's highest bridge, which stands 243 meters above the River Tarn (France) and which is 23 meters higher than the Eiffel Tower. It was inaugurated in December 2004 and is considered the first great project of the 21st century.
His latest works include the Hearst Corporation Headquarters tower in New York, the Caja Madrid tower in the Spanish capital, and the Palace of Peace in Astana, the new capital of Kazakhstan, as well as the world's largest airport in Beijing, the emblem of the Olympic Games in China. His work is on permanent exhibition at the MOMA in New York and at the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris.
Through his firm he also works and campaigns for several non-governmental organisations, such as Save the Children, and he finances grants for students of architecture, together with the Royal Institute of British Architects.
He became Lord Foster of the Thames Bank in 1999 and, among other recognitions, was awarded the Gold Medal for Architecture from the Royal Institute of British Architects (1983); the Mies van der Rohe Award (1992); the Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects (1994); the Pritzker Prize (1999); the Auguste Perret Prize (2002); the Praemium Imperiale (Japan, 2002); and the Madrid Creatividad (2006).
The Prince of Asturias Foundation's statues establish that the aim of the Awards is to acknowledge and extol ‘scientific, technical, cultural, social and humanistic work carried out by individuals, groups or institutions worldwide'. Consonant with this spirit, the Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts ‘will be bestowed upon the person, institution, group of people or group of institutions whose work in Architecture, Cinematography, Dance, Sculpture, Music, Painting or other forms of artistic expression constitutes a significant contribution to Mankind´s cultural heritage'.
This year a total of 26 candidatures from Austria, Brazil, Cuba, France, Italy, Peru, Portugal, United Kingdom, United States, Russia, and Spain ran for the award.
This is the first of eight Prince of Asturias Awards, which are being bestowed this year for the twenty-ninth time. The rest of awards will be announced in the coming weeks in the following order: International Cooperation, Social Sciences, Communication and Humanities, Technical and Scientific Research and Letters, with the Sports and Concord awards being announced in September.
Each of the Prince of Asturias Awards, which date back to 1981, is endowed with 50,000 Euros, a commissioned sculpture donated by Joan Miró, a diploma and an insignia. The awards will be presented in the autumn in Oviedo at a grand ceremony chaired by H.R.H. the Prince of Asturias.