Last night, I was lucky enough to enjoy assorted swells (but not very many architects) at the Hearst building for a screening of the enigmatic “How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?”, a film devoted to his lordship’s extravagantly photogenic architecture and life of work. Or so it looks in this approximately 90 minute film which sweeps us from the Engadin Alps where Foster annually plows through a 26-mile mile cross-country ski marathon in tight black lycra with some 14,000 others to his redbrick childhood home quite literally on the wrong side of the tracks in Manchester to his current home in a Swiss villa, spectacularly void of human touches, to his 1,000-plus strong office in London to the early Sainsbury Centre; the Swiss Re gherkin; the British Museum Great Court; the Berlin Reichstag, etc, etc, and of course, the
Hong Kong Beijing Airport that is the largest building on earth as narrator Deyan Sudjic intones mellifluously. (The trailor below provides but a morsel of this delight.)
Many of his buildings are seen as if from the wing of a Cessna gliding overhead—especially the great dinosaur-scaled Millau Viaduct in France—with the nice touch of swelling slow-mo clouds, and almost as if Foster himself were at the controls. And possibly he was, as we learn that he is quite the speed and height freak. All is accompanied by an original, also very swelling, score performed by the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra.
The cocktail party was not so dizzying with guests including Cesar Pelli, Rafael Viñoly, Vishaan Chakrabarti, Mark Wigley, Beatriz Colomina, Bob Stern, and Paul Goldberger who after the film said he had no recall whatsoever of where or when he was filmed speaking so glowingly of the Hearst tower. Pelli remembered exactly when he first met Foster in the 70s, when he was the partner in charge of design at Victor Gruen and Foster insisted on a meeting. Meanwhile, Foster smiled as graciously and blankly as the many on-hand socialites known primarily to Lady Foster, who produced the film. When asked about the film, Foster said he was amazed that it was so deep in detail. Agreed! And then we were all called into the auditorium where Lady Foster by way of introduction to “How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?” said: “And we were able to follow Foster closely for three years!” As his wife, I should hope so.
And, oh yes, the title comes from a question Buckminster Fuller, a mentor of sorts for Foster in the 70s, asked on visiting his Faber headquarters in Ipswich many years ago. Apparently it weighed quite a few tons. And for one night of fun, so did his film.