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 principal's' heritage, with Zaera–Polo hailing from Spain and Moussavi from Iran. The company produced architectural 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:

Years of build Year completed Name Type Location Notes
2003–2007 Not completed Trinity EC3 office complex Office complex London, England
2008 John Lewis Department store and Cineplex Shires West Development, Leicester, England [12][13]
2009 Not completed Maggie’s Centre for cancer patients Newcastle upon Tyne, England This location was not completed by FOA due to budgetary issues and a change in site location.[14][15]
2010 Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication Campus building Greenwich Peninsula, London, England [16]
West Quay retail centre Mixed-use extension building Southampton, England
Sevenstone Quarter Mixed-use complex Sheffield, England
Hadspen Garden Somerset, England
2008 Not completed Euston Station Redevelopment of a railway station London, England Worked with Allies and Morrison, but this location was not completed.[17][18]

In Spain: (where FOA maintained a local office 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.


Year Award name To By For Notes
2003 Kanagawa Prize for Architecture in Japan Foreign Office Architects
2004 Enric Miralles Prize for Architecture Foreign Office Architects Yokohama International Passenger Terminal [19]
2004 RIBA International Award Foreign Office Architects Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)
2004 Lion Award for Topography Foreign Office Architects 9th Venice Architecture Biennale [20]
2005 Charles Jencks Award for Architecture Foreign Office Architects
2005 RIBA International Award Foreign Office Architects Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)
2006 RIBA International Award Foreign Office Architects Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)
2008 RIBA European Award Foreign Office Architects Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Carabanchel Social Housing, Madrid, Spain
2008 European Business Award for the Environment Foreign Office Architects
2008 Urban Land Institute Award for Excellence Foreign Office Architects
2009 RIBA National Award Foreign Office Architects Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)
2010 Civic Trust Award Foreign Office Architects Civic Trust St Malachy's Church, Belfast restoration
2010 International Council of Shopping Centres Award Foreign Office Architects
2011 RIBA Award in the education and community category Foreign Office Architects Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Ravensbourne campus [21]


  • 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[22]
  • 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 archINFORM
  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. Archived from the original on 26 June 2009. 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" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-24. Retrieved 2009-04-27.
  11. ^ a b "Foreign Office Architects/Designing Modern Britain - Design Museum : - Design/Designer Information". Design Museum. 26 November 2006. Archived from the original on 13 June 2010. Retrieved 17 July 2010.
  12. ^ "ShowCase: John Lewis Department Store and Cineplex". Archinect. Retrieved 2018-12-19.
  13. ^ "John Lewis Department Store and Cineplex". Architizer. Retrieved 2018-12-19.
  14. ^ Moore, Rowan (2010-05-01). "Maggie's Cancer Caring Centres". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2018-12-19.
  15. ^ Wainwright, Oliver (2013-05-17). "Newcastle's new Maggie's Cancer Care Centre is a model of low-key comfort". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2018-12-19. the previous design for the site, produced by Foreign Office Architects in 2009, which was conceived as a continuous landscape rising up out of the ground in the manner of a Teletubby house. The architects withdrew when the site was changed – and it is unlikely that their undulating vision could have been built for the £1.5m construction budget of this project.
  16. ^ "Ravensbourne by Foreign Office Architects". Bustler. Retrieved 2018-12-19.
  17. ^ Vaughan, Richard. "FOA and Allies and Morrison to overhaul Euston station". Architects Journal. Retrieved 2018-12-19.
  18. ^ Glancey, Jonathan (2011-09-30). "Constructive criticism: the week in architecture". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2018-12-19. But don't hold your breath: big talk in 2008 of an ambitious new station masterplanned by Allies and Morrison, designed by Foreign Office Architects, developed by British Land and with the Euston Arch brought back to life, came to nothing.
  19. ^ "AD Classics: Yokohama International Passenger Terminal / Foreign Office Architects (FOA)". ArchDaily. 2018-10-17. Retrieved 2018-12-19.
  20. ^ "11th Annual Arthur Rosenblatt Memorial Lecture: Farshid Moussavi: Thoughts on New Architecture". Retrieved 2018-12-19.
  21. ^ "Ravensbourne by Foreign Office Architects". Archinect. Retrieved 2018-12-19.
  22. ^ "Institute of Contemporary Arts". Archived from the original on 2 October 2007. Retrieved 17 July 2010.

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