x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Foster chooses shocking images to protect environment

The inauguration of the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in the capital attracted architect Lord Foster, who used apocalyptic images to show the environment must be protected.

Lord Foster, the chairman and founder of Foster and Partners, is welcomed yesteday by Dr Tayeb Kamali, the vice chancellor of The Higher Colleges of Technology, at Abu Dhabi Men’s College.
Lord Foster, the chairman and founder of Foster and Partners, is welcomed yesteday by Dr Tayeb Kamali, the vice chancellor of The Higher Colleges of Technology, at Abu Dhabi Men’s College.

ABU DHABI // In order to illustrate the effects of uncontrolled energy consumption, Lord (Norman) Foster chose images intended to shock.

During a lecture at Abu Dhabi Men's College last night, the renowned British architect used two digitally transformed photographs of London: one depicting rice paddies in Parliament Square, and another with camels ridden by the Household Cavalry during the traditional Horse Guards Parade.

The artists Robert Graves and Didier Madoc-Jones created the images to show the damaging effects of global warming for a current exhibition at the Museum of London, capturing their views on how Britain may become either an arid or partially submerged disaster zone.

Lord Foster - whose firm Foster and Partners is responsible for the design of Masdar City, among many other notable projects - used them during an hour-long lecture to 400 civil engineering and business students to provide a stark example of possible futures if the Earth's inhabitants continue to consume more energy than can be produced.

"If emerging economies achieve the same quality of life as established economies, then it will have disastrous effects on the survival of these societies," he said.

Lord Foster, 75, went on to use a collection of graphs and statistics to further demonstrate his point.

"We are using an excess of what the planet will support," he said. "We need to address the challenges of achieving a one-planet society and look at how we can arrive at our goal in terms of that quest."

Lord Foster's vision of the future is a frightening one. With 70 per cent of energy consumed in cities due to transportation, he believes eventually road travel will be as tightly controlled as the skies for pilots. The imperative for everyone, he added, was to do "more with less".

And when it comes to development, said Lord Foster, the Masdar project provided an example of the importance of using design to adapt to the natural elements of any particular environment.

"My colleagues are always laughing at me because I tell them it is important to start with the camel," he said.

"They come together to keep cool in an environment which is hot. We need to take inspiration from them."

Lord Foster was in the capital yesterday for the inauguration of the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology campus. The campus is the Middle East's first graduate research institution dedicated to renewable energy and clean environmental technologies.

Masdar City has been designed as a walled and car-free city that will rely solely on green energy.

The first stage, conceived and initiated by Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company and scheduled for completion in 2016, includes the building of a large photovoltaic power plant. Wind towers will create natural cooling, which will bring the temperature down by at least 10°C.

Where the Abu Dhabi development had the edge over other energy-efficient projects was that it was a vision for an entire city, said Lord Foster.

Although the design may seem futuristic now, it suggests "that to look far forward you have to look far back", he said.

"At the [beginning] of the [20th] century there were more electric cars on the roads of America than petrol cars and 80 per cent of the American population used public transport," he said. "We have to look at the development of the transport industry and include it into the design of new cities."

aseaman@thenational.ae