Norman Foster did it again and what I mean by that is that he came up with an idea that ultimately attemps to rescue architecture, as a discipline, from its terminal crisis. When we ask ourselves what is the point of architects today, the only answer that we seem to get is that they are superheroes that build huge sculptural (and thus, unnecessary) objects in urban settings. But what is the point of this? I am saying this because architecture shouldn’t worry about building anymore. The pace buildings are being constructed and destroyed makes it more a financial exercise than a social service. Maybe that is why the latest Pritsker Prize went to the Chilean Aravena for his social housing developments in Santiago and, also maybe that is the reason why, Norman Foster thinks he can remain relevant by constructing a droneport in Rwanda which pilot project will be unveiled today at a Press Preview during the 15th International Architecture Biennale.
Rwanda is a country whose physical and social geography poses multiple challenges. The initial plan for three buildings, to be completed by 2020, would enable the network to send supplies to 44 per cent of Rwanda but who is going to send the supplies in a continent cynically wired by French communications that happen at prohibitive costs. Building a droneport in Rwanda is another step in Norman Foster’s longlasting relationship with architecture as a tool for corporate and political public relations and not as a human service.
Let me be more clear about this for on one side Foster claims that buildings like the Gherkin (in London) are ecologically self sustainable while on the other, he moves a whole mountain to build a (not particularly ecological) airport in Hong Kong. Something similar happens with the transparency fallacy in his buildings as in, for example, the Reichstag in Berlin which dome was built in glass allowing people to look down into the representatives’ debates. In times of virtual communication and Whatssap, it is almost impossible (and I would say, cynical) to state that being able to see our representatives debating equates monitoring their negotiations and dealings. The droneport is the same. While on one hand Foster works for companies that keep Africa poor and disconnected, on the other hand he uses the most important architectural platform to pretend that architect still has a conscience. Helas! J A T