Architect says he would discuss the “benefits of change” with the tradition-loving monarch

Norman Foster has said he would “love to have the opportunity” to talk to the newly crowned King Charles III about the benefits of change in architecture.

The 87-year-old Foster & Partners founder said he would use a meeting with the King, who is a champion of traditional architecture, to talk about how architecture can be healthier and more sustainable.

The comments come 14 years after the pair found themselves on the opposite sides of a row over RSHP’s plans for the Chelsea Barracks development.

Foster, Norman © GA_Yukio Futagawa

Source: Yukio Futagawa

Norman Foster

In 2009, Foster was among a group of high profile architects including David Adjaye, Zaha Hadid, Renzo Piano and Frank Gehry who wrote to Charles criticising the monarch for intervening in the plans.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 this morning, Foster appeared to offer an olive branch to the monarch. Asked what he would say to the King about modern architecture if given the opportunity, he said: 

“I’d love to have the opportunity of talking about the benefits of change, of architecture of a healthier architecture and architecture which is more sustainable.

“Of course the infrastructure of a city is the urban glue, the connections, the bridges that binds the federal buildings together, and the city has been described as our greatest invention and it is very much the future and it’s very much the the response to climate change, which is, in essence an act of design.”

Foster was also asked about his view on how architecture should adapt to changes in urban centres brought about by the pandemic and climate change.

He said the roots of modern architecture in the 19th century were primarily a response to public health.

“If you think of London in the middle of the 19th century, cholera accelerated positive change. It created the Thames Embankment, it cleaned up the Thames, it brought in modern sanitation.

”All of these things of course, would have happened anyway. But the cholera accelerated those changes and and in every case, whether it’s New York, Central Park, reservoirs, clean water, the effects of these pandemics and crises, has historically in the end had a positive effect.”

The interview comes a day before the opening of a retrospective into Foster’s work over the past six decades to be held at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

Covering nearly 2,200sq m, the exhibition will highlight the architect’s most seminal projects, including the HSBC headquarters in Hong Kong, the Carré d’Art in Nîmes, Hong Kong International Airport and Apple Park in California.

It will include drawings, sketches, original scale models and dioramas from more than 130 major projects, alongside videos and photographs taken by Foster.

Works from outside the architecture world which have inspired Foster, including classic cars and designs by Ai Weiwei and Umberto Boccioni, will also be exhibited.