Yesterday, Norman Foster, the architect behind such instantly-recognizable buildings as “The Gherkin” in London, and the Hearst Tower in New York, got burned by news that a tower his firm is building in Vegas would be halved, due to just-uncovered construction incompetence. Today, more bad news: Foster + Partners is reportedly laying off a quarter of its workforce—between 300-400 jobs, out of 1,300 total—and closing its Berlin and Istanbul offices. Foster’s pain mirrors that of the high-end architecture industry: As construction has slowed, the big-ticket, crown-jewel buildings that Foster specializes in have been summarily axed by developers.
According to BD Online:
The move was announced in a letter to staff, who will now undergo a 90-day consultation period, and pointed to “a significant decline in work within the practice”, according to staffers. It comes less than two years after private equity group 3i took a minority stake in the business, promising to provide funds for expansion.
The Berlin office handled Foster clients in Eastern Europe and Russia. The latter was the site of a marquee commission to build Europe’s tallest building. Work on that tower was recently halted. Foster has long had a strong, symbolic attachment to Berlin: One of his firm’s greatest buildings was the renovation of the Reichstag, the seat of the German parliament.
Other news is adding insult to injury. In 1999, Foster was made a peer in the House of Lords, making him Baron Foster of Thames Bank. But now his peerage is in jeopardy, due to reforms that would kick out any peers that don’t live in England. (Foster reportedly lives in Switzerland these days, and has dodged questions of residence.)