Architect for the ages Norman Foster looks to the Past,Present and Future of Building Design

CNN ANCHOR: Now, he's arguably responsible for more of the world's instantly recognizable buildings than any other architect. Certainly here in London and around Europe, but what drives the designs of Norman Foster and what does he make of today's age of architecture is part of this month's Spirit of Architecture program. Becky Anderson sits down with the master designer.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He may be based in London, but his appeal and attitude4 is truly international. I caught up with Lord Norman Foster in Barcelona and began by asking him what the purpose of architecture is.

NORMAN FOSTER, ARCHITECT: Since man came out of the cave, [he] needed to be protected from the elements, and then it becomes apparent that the quality of that environment affects the quality of your life, so the other dimension. In that sense, it's about society; it's about civilization; it's about a social agenda. It also is about symbolism. It's about the things that you can't measure. How do you measure the quality of the light, a view, sunshine?

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When you look at a building, what makes you feel happy and what makes you feel angry?

NORMAN FOSTER, ARCHITECT: What makes me feel good is when the environment, if I use it in the broadest sense, has been taken seriously by everybody involved, and they've insisted on quality. And quality is not about money; it's about attitude; it's about the quality of the thinking. You go to Rockefeller Center-you know, that's a public space; there's a place there. You go to Central Park; it's an extraordinary thing. You can't think of New York without Central Park. It's part of the infrastructure.

Of course, there are iconic buildings-overused word-but buildings which over time still command our respect and attention, and, you know, they roll off the tongue. There's the Seagram Building, you know? There's the Chrysler Building, the Empire State and so on.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Does every building that you're involved with have to be memorable and/or unique?

NORMAN FOSTER, ARCHITECT: I don't think it has to be memorable. If you come to our studio, you'll see schools, and we can talk about the way those schools have changed the lives of the children in terms of their academic standard. You can measure that. You can measure it from the school they were in before. It's not just the architecture. It's also about the teaching.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How would you describe or characterize the age of architecture that we're in at the moment?

NORMAN FOSTER, ARCHITECT: It's an age of rapid change. It's an age of rapid urbanization. It's an age of extraordinary opportunity. And over time, I'm sure that, you know, future generations will sit back and say, "Well, they did that well. They did that, you know, not-so-well." It's a time of dynamic change, and many approaches, but also extraordinary opportunities through competition systems which didn't exist in the past.

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