2011年2月11日 星期五

Lord Norman Foster


现代主义大师的建筑帝国
Driven designer constructs a global empire

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Lord Norman Foster is reputed to be a cold technocrat. The modernist architect behind HSBC’s Hong Kong building and Swiss Re’s “Gherkin” uses glass and steel, his interiors are often white. Profiles refer to his “bullet head” and portray him as inscrutable. The only architect in last year’s Sunday Times Rich List, he is renowned for being fiercely driven, having created a corporate machine unusual in an industry so vulnerable to recession and strewn with bankruptcies.

诺曼•福斯特勋爵(Lord Norman Foster)以冷静的技术派见称。这位现代派建筑大师设计了汇丰(HSBC)的香港总部和瑞士再保险(Swiss Re)的“小黄瓜”大厦。他喜欢用玻璃和钢,内饰常常为白色。个人简介中常常会提到他的“圆头”,称他如谜一般不可测知。作为去年《星期日泰晤士报》年度 富豪榜(Sunday Times Rich List)中唯一的建筑师,他以积极进取著称,在一个极易受到衰退影响、破产事件俯拾皆是的行业里打造出了一台罕见的企业机器。

Lord Foster’s grip on the international brand he has forged over four decades since founding Foster + Partners in 1967 is tight – so much so that he even insists that the typeface on all his buildings’ signage and company reports is also used in books published about him. And his reputation as an interviewee is poor; he is said to know what he is going to say before he has been asked.

福斯特勋爵牢牢控制着1967年福斯特建筑事务所(Foster & Partners)创办以来的40多年间打造的国际品牌——他甚至要求在有关他的书籍里也要使用他设计的大厦标志和公司报告中使用的字体。他作为被采访者 的名声很差;据说你还没发问前他就已经知道自己要说些什么。

So it is a surprise to discover, when meeting him at his riverside London headquarters, that he is rather personable. The 75-year-old architect, dressed in a light-blue gingham shirt with a pink trim, speaks softly and appears relaxed, occasionally leaning so far back into his chair that he is almost lying down.

因此当我在他位于泰晤河畔的伦敦总部见到他时,我很惊讶地发现,他其实可谓是风度翩翩。这位75岁的建筑师身着淡蓝色方格纹粉边衬衫,声音温柔,神态放松,偶尔会使劲后仰,几乎就要躺在椅子里了。

There is truth in his characterisation, however. He concedes he is extremely demanding. A point reinforced when, halfway through our interview, he takes a call from his youngest son. “Push for first Eduardo, push to be best,” he implores the nine-year-old. But while demanding of others, characterising himself as a “tough but fair critic”, he is “also very demanding” of himself.

不过,对他的性格描述也有一些符合实情之处。他承认,自己对别人要求非常严格。这一点 在采访过程中得到了证实——他接到9岁的小儿子打来的电话,并谆谆告诫自己的儿子:“要力争第一,爱德华多,努力做到最好。”。不过,虽然他对别人要求严 格,是一位“苛刻但公平的批评者”,但他对自己“的要求也非常高”。

It is this drive that has propelled him to forge an empire with a workforce of about 1,000 employees spread across 14 offices in 13 countries. In the architecture world, this is huge – Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, the firm started by his friend and rival, Lord Richard Rogers, has fewer than 200.

正是在这种动力的驱动下,他创建了一个约有1000名雇员的建筑帝国,在13个国家拥 有14个办事处。在建筑界,这种规模可谓庞大——他的好朋友兼老对手理查德•罗杰斯勋爵(Lord Richard Rogers)创办的罗杰斯事务所(Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners)只有不到200人。

The scale of Lord Foster’s ambition has attracted critics who suggest his hard-headed commercialism compromises his judgment, most notably with the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation in Kazakhstan. “There’s a feeling that if you [are business-minded] then somehow you’ve tarnished your creativity,” he observes.

福斯特勋爵的野心之大引得批评家们纷纷指出,他讲求实际的商业主义思想影响了他的判断 力,最突出的表现便是哈萨克斯坦的和平与复和之殿(Palace of Peace and Reconciliation)。“人们感觉,如果你(有商业意识),那多少都会损害你的创造力,”他评论道。

Lord Foster’s drive emerges as a central theme of the film How Much does your Building Weigh, Mr Foster? – a reference to the question posed by Richard Buckminster Fuller, the American engineer-visionary – which was released last week and traces the architect’s career from his modest origins in Manchester.

福斯特勋爵的干劲也是影片《您的建筑重几何,福斯特先生?》(How Much does your Building Weigh, Mr Foster?)的中心主题。该片于1月末上映,追述了这位建筑大师从最初在曼切斯特默默无名开始的职业生涯,片名来自美国工程师兼发明家理查德•巴克敏 斯特•富勒(Richard Buckminster Fuller)提出的问题。

Lord Foster’s father was the manager of a furniture and pawn shop, who worked nights in an aircraft factory during the war. At the age of 21, through toil and determination, Lord Foster, who as a child spent stretches of time sketching buildings, won a place at architecture school where he had to pay his way by working. He went on to win a scholarship to Yale in 1961 where he met Richard Rogers, with whom he set up the practice, Team 4, together with Mr Rogers’ first wife Su, and Wendy Cheeseman, who became Lord Foster’s first wife.

福斯特勋爵的父亲是一个家具店兼典当行的经理,战争期间晚上在一家飞机制造厂兼职。小 时候,福斯特花了大量时间练习建筑素描,凭借刻苦努力和坚定的决心,21岁时赢得进入建筑学院学习的机会,但只能是勤工俭学。1961年,他获得奖学金, 赴耶鲁大学(Yale)就读,在那里结识了理查德•罗杰斯,并与罗杰斯、罗杰斯的第一任妻子苏(Su)以及后来成了福斯特第一任妻子的温蒂•吉斯曼 (Wendy Cheeseman)共同成立了一家事务所——四人组(Team 4)。

At the time, having to fund his own education made Lord Foster “feel really hard done by”. Now he believes it “was the best thing that happened to me . . . [because] I was so passionate about what I was doing that I would literally pay to do it . . . It taught me values. If I bought something, whether a sheet of paper or my tuition, I knew how much it was costing.” And it showed him, he says, “how to optimise time”. Even now, “if I’m in a car, I’m working”.

当时,由于必须为自己的教育筹集经费,福斯特“感到命运非常不公”。现在他认为那是 “我最好的经历……(因为)我对自己做的事充满热情,愿意花钱去做……这让我懂得了价值。我去买东西时,无论是买一张纸还是付学费,我都知道它价值几 何。”他还说,那还让他学会了“如何充分利用时间”。直到现在,“我还是会一边开车一边工作”。

A desire for financial security has never been his motivation, he insists, in spite of his passionate enthusiasm for piloting planes and helicopters. He rejects his characterisation as a tax exile, saying he pays taxes in the UK as well as Switzerland, where his Spanish wife, Elena Ochoa, an academic psychologist turned publisher, and two young children, are based.

他坚称,尽管他热衷于驾驶飞机和直升机,但对经济保障的渴望从来都不是他的动力来源。 他否认自己本质上是一个逃税者,称自己在英国和瑞士都缴税。他的西班牙妻子埃林娜•奥乔亚(Elena Ochoa)和两个年幼的孩子都住在瑞士。奥乔亚是一位心理学家,后来转行做了出版人。

Money “has absolutely nothing to do with what I do. In the past [the company has been] on the edge and gambled everything. It was like approaching the cliff edge.”

金钱“和我做什么丝毫没有关系。过去(公司的情况一直)非常紧张,到处冒险。那种感觉就好像走向悬崖边缘。”

Did it scare him? “It sharpens you.” He claims never to have had sleepless nights over finances. “I’m more likely to lie awake [over bad] design direction.”

这让他害怕了吗?“它会让你更强大。”他自称从未因为经济问题失眠。“我更有可能(因为糟糕的)设计方向而辗转难眠。”

That may be just as well. Foster + Partners has been hurt by the recession, which saw global demand for big building projects slide. Last year, it shed a quarter of its staff, as turnover fell to £134m from £154m the year before. The privately held firm reported a pre-tax loss of £15m. The company’s heavy debt burden is £327m, having risen since 3i, the private equity firm, acquired a 40 per cent stake in 2007; the annual debt interest payments – almost £40m – wiped out operating profits of £25m.

这样或许也不错。经济低迷导致全球对大型建筑项目的需求明显滑坡,福斯特建筑事务所也 受到了影响。去年,这家私有公司裁减了四分之一的员工,营业额从一年前的1.54亿英镑降至1.34亿英镑,税前亏损1500万英镑。自2007年私人股 本公司3i收购了其40%的股权之后,公司的债务负担一直在增加,如今高达3.27亿英镑,每年支付的债务利息接近4000万英镑,将2500亿英镑的营 业利润彻底抹平。

Will there be more job losses? “It’s probably guaranteed.” A small smile flickers across his face, before he pauses, worried about appearing insensitive. “That’s a trite way of saying that anybody who’s been around any length of time is no stranger to cyclical ups and downs. But the fact that we are widely spread geographically, and providing more services [integrated] with engineering, provides insulation against downturns.”

公司还会裁员吗?“大概不可避免。”他脸上闪过一丝微笑,随后停顿了一下,担心这会显 得自己不麻木不仁。“只要在职场上打拼过一段时间的人都不会对周期性起伏感到陌生,这是一种老套的说法。事实是,我们地域分布广泛,提供更多与工程相结合 的服务,从而隔绝了经济衰退的部分影响。”

Lord Foster – recently a judge on the Zayed Future Energy Prize, which awards $1.1m for innovative environmental projects, as well as designing Masdar, the zero-carbon city being built in Abu Dhabi – adds that the firm’s expertise in sustainability will prove increasingly valuable.

福斯特勋爵接着说道,公司在可持续发展方面的专长必将变得越来越宝贵。最近,他担任了 扎耶德未来能源奖(Zayed Future Energy Prize)的评委,该奖表彰的是创新环保项目,奖金为1100万美元。他还承担了阿布扎比建设中的零碳城市马斯达尔(Masdar)的设计工作。

He maintains that the relationship with 3i will prove beneficial in the long term by giving the architectural practice access to expertise in foreign finance. “We have a fantastic relationship; [3i has] a very light touch, we do what we do and get on with it. Total non-interference.”

他坚持认为,与3i的联姻从长远来看将是有益的,能让这家建筑事务所获得海外金融方面的专长。“我们的关系十分美妙;(3i)干预很少,我们该做什么还是继续做什么。完全不受干涉。”

Unlike Lord Rogers, whose firm changed its name to Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners in 2007 to lessen the impression that the firm revolves around him, Lord Foster has no plans to include others on his company’s masthead. Is that due to vanity? “[It’s] pride. Pride is a valuable, motivating quality. Vanity is dangerous because it’s superficial.”

2007年,罗杰斯勋爵将其建筑事务所更名为Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners ,以削弱公司围绕着他转的印象。与罗杰斯不同,福斯特勋爵没有打算在公司名号中加入其它人的姓氏。这是出于虚荣心吗?“这是自豪感。自豪感是无价的,能够 激励我们提高质量。虚荣心很危险,因为它浮于表面。”

Indeed, he dismisses the characterisation of architects as egotists intent on remaking the world in their own image. “The architect has no power,” he says, suggesting he is simply an “advocate” for the client. “To be really effective as an architect or as a designer, you have to be a good listener.”

事实上,福斯特并不赞同把建筑师描绘成依照自身想象重塑世界的个人主义者。“建筑师没有权力,”他说,并表示自己不过是客户的“拥护者”。“要真正发挥建筑师或者设计师的作用,你必须是出色的聆听者。”

Surely there are clients who are deferential, in awe of his reputation? “I think you’d be surprised how fast that would evaporate,” he laughs, before eventually conceding that the more successful he has become, the less likely he is to hear criticism. “People do tell you what they think you want to hear.”

肯定会有客户对他毕恭毕敬,十分崇拜他的名声吧?“我想,崇拜之情消散的速度会令你吃惊的,”他笑道。不过,他最后还是承认,他越成功,听到批评声的可能性就越小。“人们确实会说一些他们认为你想听的话。”

He will not be drawn on succession, except to say that the day-to-day operation works without his presence – and insists that he has no plans to retire. “I still get a great buzz from [work].”

他不会接过有关继承的话题,只会谈到他不在时日常工作的运转情况。他强调自己还没有退休计划。“我仍然能从(工作)中获得极大的陶醉感。”

A number of partners have been at the company for 30 to 40 years, and all senior managers, including chief executive Mouzhan Majidi, are architects rather than businessmen. “We’re driven by design,” he says proudly.

有几个合伙人已在公司干了三、四十年,而且公司所有的高层管理人员——包括首席执行官莫赞•姆基迪(Mouzhan Mjidi)——都是建筑师,而不是商人。“设计是我们的动力,”他自豪地说。

The vast open-plan white and glass riverside office – which is either the embodiment of modernist meritocracy or sleek sweatshop, depending on your point of view – is intended to encourage ideas.

泰晤河畔这间宽敞的办公室采用开放式布局、纯白色调和玻璃材料——它可以象征现代主义精英文化,也可以象征外表光洁的血汗工厂,取决于你怎么看——旨在鼓励创意。

“I don’t have a desk. I’m moving around. Everything is transparent,” he says. “That doesn’t mean to say it is not hierarchical. Of course it’s hierarchical. You have to have leadership.”

“我没有办公桌,我会四处走动。一切都很透明,”他说。“这不是说公司没有等级观念。当然要有等级观念。你必须有领导力。”

What would his parents, who came from humble backgrounds, have said if they saw this huge office? “I think they would be incredibly touched and very moved and very proud.”

如果他出身低微的父母看到这间大办公室会怎么说?“我想他们会深受触动,非常感动、非常自豪。”

Suddenly Lord Foster’s voice wavers and his eyes appear to redden with tears. “But I think I would be more proud of them.”

突然,福斯特勋爵的声音颤抖了起来,他眼眶发红,眼中泛着泪光。“但我想,我更为他们感到自豪。”

Why? “Because I [had] two exceptional parents – extraordinarily loving, very supportive, incredibly hardworking.”

为什么?“因为我有两位杰出的父母,特别慈爱,特别支持我,特别勤勉。”

This flicker of intimacy spurs me to confide he is easier company than I had expected. Lord Foster admits he cannot identify himself in the severe and cold man described in interviews. He posits it may come from aloofness, borne out of shyness. “It’s something I’ve had to overcome.”

这一瞬间闪现的亲密感促使我向他坦言,他比我预期的更容易相处。福斯特勋爵承认,他也认不出访问中描述的那个严厉冷酷的人就是他本人。他推测那可能源自因害羞产生的离群感。“我必须克服这一点。”


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