Lord Foster: accountant or architect?


Lord Foster | accountant or architect ?


It is a very strange coincidence indeed. Might as well call it an Omen…

Just yesterday I was writing about how irrelevant is modern understanding of architectural profession (which is officially called “conducting a business of architecture”) to the real substance of Architecture. And while I was naively oratorizing about abstract principles of harmony, mystical search for the beauty canons, divine intervention and other BS, the most successful architect of modern times was thinking of … TAXES.

No wonder he’s a Lord – rich and famous. He is smart and clear-headed… Is he an Architect though? Was he ever?…

Those are few of the latest media excerpts:


Architect Foster gives up seat in Britain’s House of Lords (sify.com/news) | 2010-07-09 01:20:00

“Leading architect Norman Foster has quit the House of Lords rather than pay full resident taxes in Britain, a parliamentary spokeswoman said Thursday… Foster is among five peers who gave up their unelected seats…”

Architect quits Lords on tax status (The Press Association)

“Architect Lord Foster of Thames Bank has given up his seat in the House of Lords in order to hold on to his non-domiciled tax status. He was the fifth peer to quit the Upper House… He retains his title, but will no longer be able to attend the Lords or vote on legislation…”

Norman Foster Quits Duties as ‘Lord’, Manages to Retain Title (By S. Delahoyde, mediabistro)

“Norman Foster has decided to give up his meeting rights and the ability to vote on legislation that he’s had since joining the UK’s House of Lords back in 1999… However, while Foster is stepping down from all his obligations to the House, he’ll continue to retain his Lord Foster title and all that comes with it (primarily that he can keep calling himself “Lord Foster”), adding to previous efforts to have him stripped of it. The starchitect, known for his buildings built across the globe, was one of five Lords to give up their duties in order to escape additional taxes…”


There is not much to add. What pisses me off that in every article word “Architect” is clearly emphasized. If “Lord Foster” would be a financier, manufacturer, engineer or a real-estate broker, no one would mention his profession. People still associate word “Architect” with something sacral, elevated above the primitive world issues, above the business greed.  People, but not “Lord Foster”.

And on a final note. Wikipedia: “As of April 2010 the House of Lords has 707 members”. Five of them “quit the House of Lords rather than pay full resident taxes in Britain.” One of them is an architect.

P.S. Some of his projects are great. So there is nothing personal, my Lord. Strictly business.



8 Responses to “Lord Foster: accountant or architect?”
  1. maria says:

    i agree most of your posts. reflections of vintage architecture prove more better as-built for human kind than today’s plain line ego. more modern architects today tend to just opt for deadlines and paycheck at the end of the month. yet, we can’t really blame them. that’s indeed one of the practical means in life, got to keep up with the current taxes which is getting fatter.

  2. Albert says:

    Thanks, Maria. But shouldn’t we blame ourselves for placing our great profession in the position where “practical means” (read money! ) become our primary motivator? Why lawyers are still rich and famous? Why doctors are still respectable and no one dictates them how to operate on the patient? And why we lost our professional fleur and respect from the clients telling us how to perform the design-operation? Maybe it happened because we were so obsessed with the deadlines & cheques that we forgot how to create unique beautiful designs and to please people by that.
    Making project profitable that what consumes us. Not making building magical.
    We are conducting “business of architecture”. We are guilty for doing that. We should be blamed.

  3. kedar kulkarni says:

    do you practice or only write.

    • Albert says:

      Is it impossible to do both?
      Are you trying to point out that the realities on the ground are different and being as creative as possible we still have to survive, make a profit and pay less taxes? Well, yes agreed. Yet I think in case of Lord Foster the criteria should be less materialistic. Having such Title you must be ready to accept a bit more moral obligations, isn’t it?

  4. Michael says:

    I wholeheartedly disagree that, we, architects are to blame, or at least, solely to blame for our predicament. We live in a culture evermore driven by the bottom line, (greed) by marketing, (superficiality, ignorance, and insecurity) and by civil litigation (frivolous torts). In this day and age, it’s a wonder that architects can remain afloat at all. Every architect I know wants to produce beautiful edifices, and yet precious few are able to take second jobs to feed themselves after having spent over 70 hours per week on their hobby called architecture. It’s a sad state of affairs to be sure, but show me the leverage for us to remedy this situation. The only hope I see is to begin educating people at a very early age on what good design is, why it matters, and therefore what it’s worth. One dimensional minds will never appreciate 4 dimensional things.

    • Albert says:

      I wholeheartedly agree with every word of your comment. How to change the situation? I hope with my blog I scratch the surface of the iceberg answering this major question…

      I don’t blame architects. I understand that Lord Foster is a saint comparing to US bankers or Wall St. CEO’s. But being an architect and knowing the field I start from my own backyard. I can’t point fingers. I carry personal responsibility for my professional area, which doesn’t mean that I’m not aware of the ugliness surrounding us.

      Thank you again for your very expressive and sincere comment.

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