Renowned architect Luke Fox celebrates a 20-year legacy at Foster + Partners. He chats with Perspective on a recent visit to Hong Kong about working in Asia and Europe and designing for the present and future
Based in London as a senior executive partner and the head of studio for Foster + Partners, Luke Fox has come a long way. After studying architecture at the University of Sydney, he worked with KPF in New York for four years before moving to London in 1998 to join the acclaimed studio. Since then, he's been involved in a slew of major developments around the world; at present, his team is juggling The Murray in Hong Kong, the Haramain High Speed Rail and a Four Seasons hotel in Saudi Arabia, six new metro stations in Sydney – and numerous other projects.
Celebrating his 20th anniversary at the firm this year, did Fox ever see himself in this position? "It was a great honour to get a job at Foster + Partners, and I never thought I'd be in the situation I'm in," he admits. "To be honest, my original plan was always to go back to Sydney after a couple of years – and almost 20 years later, here I am!”
“Life takes its own direction, as much as you think you know which way it's going to go."
Vehicular traffic has been moved underneath the extension, creating a pedestrian-friendly space. "People can come all the way through the building down to that deck level to get that intimate one-on-one experience with the water and all the activity on the harbour – which I think doesn't happen enough in Hong Kong," he explains. "We created places where people can sit and enjoy that, including terraces and rooftop gardens, and shaded those with louvres to control the amount of sun coming to the building. Hopefully, this is a catalyst for more engagement with the water."
Among the firm's Hong Kong projects are the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal and West Kowloon Cultural District, both of which focus on the incorporation of green spaces. "The agenda is changing globally, with more of a drive towards the sustainability of buildings," says Fox.
"My experience on West Kowloon was very much about trying to create public spaces that are responsive to and learn from the Hong Kong environment. It's like we've done on Kai Tak Cruise Terminal with the rooftop gardens to make a publicly accessible, usable park space – there's been real engagement and support."
Fox was also instrumental in working on Terminal 3 of Beijing Capital International Airport; he lived there for about a year and a half during the project. "The city transformed every week for the Olympics – that was an extraordinary experience," he recalls. "I think we had 40,000 workers, and we were on site within about three months of winning the competition. It was an incredibly fast process."
This rapid pace, Fox thinks, sets Asia apart. "There is an extraordinary difference between working here and in Europe. The Beijing airport, start to finish, took about four years – and one of the Heathrow terminals took about 10 or 15 years just to go through the planning process!" He sees pros and cons in both approaches. "In China, you work very quickly, but that needs to be tempered with a firm understanding of the environment so that it actually makes a positive contribution to those cities. That design period is so crucial and pays dividends in the future – so we really don't like to rush it."
This is an excerpt from "The test of time”, an article from the January/February issue of Perspective magazine.
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