Fostering Disfavor in Midtown

Philip Nobel’s premise that New York City has confounded Norman Foster is baseless (Norman Foster vs. New York). While the “diagrid” of the Hearst may not be as elegant as the Swiss Re (30 St. Mary Axe, Swiss Re Headquarters) or of his WTC entry, it is revolutionary! It explores a slightly different formal iteration of the “diagrid” than Swiss Re’s and responds to New York’s demanding real estate market. The Hearst Building will be seen in history as one of the first in a new structural typology of skyscrapers—the built proof of a paradigm shift in tall buildings. Nobel’s only gripe should be to ask why someone from New York hasn’t been able to match Foster’s (or Piano’s, for that matter) excellent and progressive design.

Andrew Watkins
Chan Krieger and Associates


Norman Foster’s Hearst Building is not that original. The United Steel Workers’ Building in Pittsburgh, completed in 1963, used a similar “diagrid” system, albeit more fine grained and when structural skins were a preoccupation of the era. Bruce Graham’s John Hancock Tower did as well, although on a larger scale.

Gary Hack


Norman Foster is one of the best architects ever. However, he seems to generate forms which are kind of ‘ugly’ even if justified by their function—for example the GLC Building (City Hall) in London, or The Gherkin (30 St. Mary Axe, Swiss Re Headquarters), which close up seems over-scaled and a bit crude. He has gone a bit ‘off’ I’m afraid and I think he should just stick to what he has always done well, and when he can’t do that, get involved like Rogers with the big issues.

sent via e-mail


The tower is beautiful, but had the project been given the true Foster process it would have been one of the finest in the world. Green, life cycle costing, and flexibility are the future. Look at Commerzbank Headquarters or Swiss Re; Foster has been pursuing the right direction for years, as is Rogers, Piano, Hollein, Pei, and SOM. I am not sure a close relationship to context would have helped in this project. Go Lord Norman, go. Give me more.

Jon Brees Thogmartin

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