Foreign Office Architects

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Foreign Office Architects, FOA,[1] was an architectural design studio headed by former husband and wife team Farshid Moussavi and Alejandro Zaera-Polo. The London-based studio, which was established in 1993, specialised in architectural design, master planning and interior design services for both public and private sector clients. Following the end of the couple's marriage, the winding up of the studio's activities was announced in December 2009.[2] The establishment of two new practices, FMA (Farshid Moussavi Architecture) and London/Barcelona based AZPA Limited followed in 2011.[3]

The "Foreign" in the company's name referred to the principals' heritage, with Zaera–Polo hailing from Spain and Moussavi from Iran. The company produced projects in Japan, the United States, the Netherlands and Spain.[4]

FOA emerged as one of the most significant architecture and urban design practices of its time,[5] and become known for combining technical innovation with design excellence.[6] FOA's designers were critically acclaimed, and won several awards. In their approach to architecture, the designers were hailed as new pragmatists,[7][8] employing technical rigor in their focus on organic growth and the evolution of design ‘species’ hybridizing uses relating to both local and global conditions.[9] Their work addressed a variety of locations and typologies.[10]

The studio's first project, which is considered its landmark achievement, was the Yokohama Pier Port Terminal in Japan.[4] The Terminal has been described as a hybrid of non-Cartesian industrial infrastructure and versatile social functionality.[11] The commission was awarded after an international competition held in 1995; the terminal was completed in 2002.

Yokohama Pier microstation model - isometric rendering by Guy Westbrook


In the UK:

  • John Lewis department store and Cineplex at the Shires West Development, Leicester
  • The Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication in the Greenwich Peninsula
  • Trinity EC3, an office complex in the City of London
  • The mixed–use extension of the West Quay retail centre in Southampton
  • Sevenstone Quarter, a mixed–use complex in Sheffield
  • Hadspen Gardens, Somerset
  • The redevelopment of Euston Station in London
  • A Maggie’s Centre for cancer patients in Newcastle upon Tyne

In Spain: (where FOA maintained a local branch)

  • the La Rioja Technology Transfer Center, Logrono
  • Bamboo Building, a social housing in Madrid
  • A 50,000m2 coastal park with outdoor auditoria in Barcelona
  • Police headquarters in La Villajoyosa
  • Municipal Theatre in Torrevieja
  • The Institute of Legal Medicine in Madrid
  • The D-38 Office Complex in Barcelona
  • A Villa in Pedralbes, Barcelona
  • The Hotel Masaveu in Gijón
  • A Residential Tower in Durango

Projects in other European locations:

  • The Blue Moon Hotel in Groningen, the Netherlands
  • The Umraniye Retail Complex and Multiplex, in Istanbul, Turkey
  • The Mahler 4 office building in Amsterdam
  • The future Aerospace Campus in Toulouse, France

Projects in Asia:

  • The Spanish Pavilion at the 2005 Aichi International Expo in Japan
  • A headquarters building for Dulnyouk Publishers, Paju, South Korea
  • Two 180m high residential towers at the World Business Centre in Busan, South Korea
  • The KL Sentral Plot D Residential Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

In the USA:

FOA won several prestigious competitions and commissions, including the BBC Music Box for the firm’s White City complex in 2003. The practice played a central creative role in the Masterplanning team for the London 2012 Olympics Park, site-wide infrastructure and accompanying long-term regeneration of the Lower Lea Valley (2002–2007) and was selected as part of the United Architects team to submit a design for the World Trade Center in New York in 2002, in the aftermath of 9/11.



  • FOA Yokohama International Port Terminal, Architectural Association, London, 1–24 June 1995
  • Solo exhibition at the 8th Venice Architecture Biennale in 2002
  • FOA Breeding Architecture, ICA, London, 29 November 2003 – 28 February 2004[12]
  • FOA Designing Modern Britain, Design Museum, 2006[11]
  • FOA projects have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and at the Max Protetch Gallery.

Further reading[edit]

The practice has been published in numerous monographs and catalogues globally:

  • Foreign Office Architects: Working, University of Michigan Press, 2005
  • FOA's ark evolving container for the proliferating singularities, Korean Architecture and Culture Magazine, December 2004
  • Phylogenesis: FOA’s ark, Foreign Office, A monograph by Actar, Barcelona, Spain, 2003
  • Complexity and consistency, A monograph, issue 115/116, El Croquis, Madrid, Spain, 2003
  • The Yokohama Project, a monograph, Actar, Barcelona, Spain, 2003
  • FOA Recent Projects, Text by Jeffrey Kipnis, Ciro Najle & Alejandro Zaera Polo, published as 2G no.16, Barcelona, Spain, 2001
  • Agneta Eriksson, Foreign Office Architects, Eriksson + Ronnefalk Forlag, 2001


  1. ^ (1993–2010)Foreign Office Architects at the archINFORM database
  2. ^ FOA Office to Close as Partners Split
  3. ^ FOA Architects Set Up Separately
  4. ^ a b "Foreign Office Architects - Yokohama International Port Terminal". 28 October 2002. Retrieved 17 July 2010.
  5. ^ [1] Archived 12 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ "System Tools". Worldarchitecture.Org. Retrieved 17 July 2010.
  7. ^ Jane Rendell. Art and architecture, p. 68
  8. ^ William S. Saunders (Ed.) The New Architectural Pragmatism: A Harvard Design Magazine Reader
  9. ^ "Foreign Office Architects | icon 007 | November 2003 | ICON MAGAZINE ONLINE". Retrieved 17 July 2010.
  10. ^ FOA
  11. ^ a b "Foreign Office Architects/Designing Modern Britain - Design Museum : - Design/Designer Information". Design Museum. 26 November 2006. Retrieved 17 July 2010.
  12. ^ "Institute of Contemporary Arts". Retrieved 17 July 2010.

External links[edit]