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Norman Foster calls for ‘bold solutions’ to tackle urbanisation and climate change

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Norman Foster has urged cities to find ‘bold solutions’ for tackling the global problems of climate change and rapid urbanisation during a sell-out lecture in central London last night

In a wide-ranging talk, the Pritzker Prize-winning architect told the 1,900-strong crowd at the Barbican Centre that in the future, infrastructure design must adapt and do ‘more with less’.

Foster said the infrastructure of the future would focus on efficiency, waste reduction and new technologies. And he stressed the need to move to a more circular economy.

The rapid growth of cities meant that 70 per cent of the world would be urban by 2050, he said. ‘That exodus from rural areas is most likely initially into a favela, an informal settlement or, putting it more bluntly, a slum,’ Foster explained. ‘Forty per cent of humanity is in slum conditions with most without power, unable to throw a switch for lighting, for heating, no clean water and no modern sanitation.’

We need to move away from an economy or a building or a city where stuff goes in at one end and waste comes out the other

He added: ‘Simplistically, we need to move away from an economy or a building or a city where stuff goes in at one end and waste comes out the other. It’s the greater move to a more circular economy, where waste is converted into energy.’

norman foster giving af talk at barbican april 18 nigel young foster partners

Norman Foster, giving a talk at the Barbican as part of the Architecture Foundation’s Architecture on Stage – a programme of talks by the world’s leading architects. (April 2018)

Source: Nigel Young/Foster + Partners

Norman Foster, giving a talk at the Barbican as part of the Architecture Foundation’s Architecture on Stage – a programme of talks by the world’s leading architects. (April 2018)

Foster said he was excited by research being undertaken by the Norman Foster Foundation, which is exploring the self-sufficiency of favela communities in regions such as Latin America, and how an ‘individual dwelling can harvest energy’. 

Instead of bulldozing favela communities, or building roads to link the shanty towns to city centres, Foster suggested that drones could be used as ambulances or fire-fighters.

’The idea you can raze [favelas] to the ground is not realisable,’ he said. ‘But do we really have to dig out roads? What if a drone fire-fights, what if a drone is an ambulance service? And if it works with that immediacy in a favela, why would you be hanging around in a traditional city waiting for an ambulance to get through the traffic jam?’

In the lecture, part of the Architecture Foundation and Barbican’s Architecture on Stage series, Foster also spoke about the energy-efficient designs of his most famous projects including the Bloomberg HQ in central London and the Apple building in California.

norman foster giving af talk at barbican april 18 nigel young foster and partners

norman foster giving af talk at barbican april 18 nigel young foster and partners

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