Foster plans new Beijing headquarters as base for China expansion
Firm’s office will neighbour Ai Weiwei gallery and promote Chinese art and architecture
Foster & Partners is designing its own headquarters building in China as the firm looks to expand the amount of business it carries out in the country.
Chairman Norman Foster told BD the new building in the Caochangdi area of Beijing would go up next to the Three Shadows Photography Art Centre – designed by dissident architect Ai Weiwei four years ago – and would be submitted for planning later this year.
Foster said: “It will in part be public in the sense that it will have galleries, it will have a café. It will host exhibitions by young artists and architects in China. It will have an apartment for an artist in residence.
“It will also be a centre for ourselves. It will have all the facilities for designers. We’ll have workshops and modelshops. That will be our centre in that part of the world.”
Three Shadows co-founder and director, Chinese artist RongRong, said the news would promote Beijing’s case as a cultural centre.
He added: “It’s great news for the entire city of Beijing as a truly international cultural hub. The presence of a renowned master of [Foster’s] calibre here in Beijing will have a very positive influence on architecture and other types of art and culture.”
Foster & Partners set up a base in the Chinese capital back in 2003. Among the projects it is currently working on are the Citic Bank Headquarters in Hangzhou and a scheme designed in collaboration with Thomas Heatherwick for the upmarket Bund district of Shanghai.
Foster said the firm was eyeing more opportunities overseas, with Brazil thought to be high on its list, because of continuing problems with parts of the global economy such as the US and Europe.
There is an awareness of the fragility of being overly dependent on one place
“[There is] an awareness of the fragility of being overly dependent on one place,” he admitted. “You do get all these cyclical upturns and downturns.”
But he said UK firms thinking about branching further overseas should take the plunge. “If you are immersed in those places instead of reading about them in the press you do get a very different experience.”
The company’s 2011 results will be unveiled later this year but in its most recent accounts, for the year to April 2010, Foster’s had a turnover of £134 million with just £10.5 million – less than 10% – coming from its UK operations.
Its biggest operation was the Middle East at £60 million, while Asia,including China, had revenues of £21 million. However, it did just £626,000 worth of business in South America.