For our next ‘Inside the Archive’ interview, Senior Partner and Design Board member, Armstrong Yakubu recalls his first encounter with Norman Foster’s work as a student at the Architectural Association, London. Under the tutelage of Ron Herron and Jan Kaplicky, Yakubu was inspired to apply to Foster Associates. He successfully got an interview and has been at the practice ever since.
The Murray Hotel in Hong Kong represents a valuable case study in retrofitting existing buildings. Yakubu notes that the structure was given “new connections” to facilitate the change of use and allow the building to enter the public realm. The result is both “totally new and totally familiar”.
Working with Norman Foster on numerous projects, one which stands out as a favourite is the Elephant House at Copenhagen Zoo. Yakubu notes that even though “our clients were elephants” their requirements were treated seriously. Overcoming problems, the resulting enclosure gave the elephants a new conducive environment they had not enjoyed previously.
Reflecting on the practice, Yakubu emphasises the beneficially “challenging” nature of design. The culture of enquiry and questioning promoted by Norman Foster remains a core value, and is something which Yakubu has learned from Foster’s example.
He admires the continual hard work Foster applies in the drive to be innovative and create people-focused designs which “find the right answers”.