In Search of the Global Architect: the Case of Norman Foster (and Partners)


The figure of the global architect is often quoted in public discourse but loosely used. This article focuses on Norman Foster, the prolific British architect, and seeks to examine his successful exploitation of the processes of architectural globalization. Yet it also seeks to unravel the varying meanings of Foster — as ‘creative’ individual, as visual design style, and as architectural practice or firm. To illustrate this, I consider the architect in multiple ways: as an individual creative designer within an increasingly globalized architectural ‘star system’; through his corporeal presence at various stages of project design or commissioning; as the manager and leader of a design process and studio; and through a discussion of the relationship between ‘signature’ and brand, questioning the nature of authorship in contemporary architectural production.