On Beauty (letter) and Patrick Lynch's Response
In preparing to review Norman Foster Works 3 in another journal, I discovered the recent appraisal by Patrick Lynch in the Critics section of AJ 15.11.07. Having studied the previous volumes, I had begun to form the view that not only was this perhaps the best of the Foster Works series published so far, but the one which contained both the most assertive and innovative projects, such as the Millennium Tower in Tokyo (pictured left) or the nautical architecture of the yachts Dark Shadow and Izanami.
In addition, Works 3 brings a fresh and revealing glimpse into Foster’s self-constructed context,
his riverside studios and the family life of the London office. In itself, this beautiful book offers
a rare and special insight into the internal workings of a major global design practice – one in
which we should surely have great confidence, and hold in respect for demonstrating architectural practice at its highest level. Equally, the quality of the authorship among the distinguished list of contributors cannot go without mention; nor the quality prevalent in the books’ richly varied texts and graphics.
Indeed, when I reflect on some 21 years of academic life and my personal association with a
number of global architectural practices – including those of Richard Meier in New York, Ken Yeang in Kuala Lumpur, and Enrique Norten in Mexico City among others – I can think of no greater experience than that of Foster’s studios here in London.
However, the tone of the AJ review of Works 3 is largely one of derisive and abusive denigration,which is completely intolerable when we should have some sense of moderation and respect for such a body of work. Crass, disparaging journalism of the kind found in that review surely falls below the standards readers have come to expect from the AJ – a publication with a tradition of great architectural criticism.
In a world of shifting values, the AJ has a duty to provide editorial leadership of distinction. ‘Self-serving twaddle, at best’ – I do not think so. Rather: masterwork from a studio that has hosted such figures as Richard Buckminster Fuller, Otl Aicher and Anthony Caro, undervalued and misrepresented to the world at large.