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Learning from Norman

Olly Wainwright has a great blog for the Guardian in which he describes the presentation process by four starchitects pitching to design a New York tower. Foster was the winner and we can see his pitch on video. Whether you love or hate his architecture, it is an object lesson in presentation. Wainwright praises him for using ‘practical no-nonsense terms’. And he is right. But what really struck me was his abundant use of the word ‘you’. He talks to the client all the time about ‘you want’, ‘what you would like’. And there is very little use of the word ‘I’. It is almost as if the design has happened as a natural concomitant of the client’s needs – as interpreted by Foster.

It is of course a riskier strategy than it looks. If he gets those needs wrong, the client may think ‘no this is not what we want’. But Foster is a consummate professional and this is a video every architect should watch.

There is a sting in the tail. Wainwright has some criticisms of the three unsuccessful bidders and their approaches. Originally their videos were available too but the client has taken them down – presumably under pressure from the architects. So viewers can learn from good practice – but not from bad.







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