Foreign Office Architects

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Foreign Office Architects, FOA,[1] was an internationally acclaimed 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 Moussavi and Zaera-Polo's marriage the cessation of the studio's activities was announced in June 2011. The establishment of two new practices, FMA (Farshid Moussavi Architecture) and London/Barcelona based AZPA Limited followed.

FOA's name was an allusion to the heritage of its principals with Zaera Polo hailing from Spain and Moussavi Iran. its office has projects in Japan, the United States, the Netherlands and Spain." [2]

FOA emerged as one of the most significant architecture and urban design practices of its time,[3] and become known for combining technical innovation with design excellence.[4] FOA has produced critically acclaimed and award winning projects. In their approach to architecture, FOA are new pragmatists,[5][6] bringing to bear great technical rigor in their focus on organic growth and the evolution of design ‘species’ hybridizing uses relating to both local and global conditions.[7] The work unfolds rigorously through a broad variety of locations and typologies.[8]

The studio's first project and that which it is still most famously associated with, the Yokohama Pier Port Terminal [2] in Japan, has been described as a hybrid of non-Cartesian industrial infrastructure and versatile social functionality.[9] was won as a result of an international competition held in 1995 and was completed in 2002.

Yokohama Pier microstation model - isometric rendering by Guy Westbrook


The work of the practice has branched into a very broad range of typologies and geographical locations and client types, rigorously developed to suit the particular conditions and programmatic requirements.

Completed projects:

In the UK:

  • John Lewis department store and Cineplex at the Shires West Development, Leicester (2000-8)

In the UK, projects under way include:

  • The Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication in the Greenwich Peninsula (2005-)
  • Trinity EC3, an office complex in the City of London (2003-)
  • The mixed use extension of the West Quay retail centre in Southampton (2002-)
  • Sevenstone Quarter, a mixed-use complex in Sheffield (2007-)
  • Hadspen Gardens, Somerset (2005-)
  • The redevelopment of Euston Station in London
  • A Maggie’s Centre for cancer patients in Newcastle upon Tyne (2007-)

In Spain (where FOA has a local branch) completed projects include:

  • the La Rioja Technology Transfer Center, Logrono (2003-7)
  • Bamboo Building, a social housing in Madrid (2004-7)
  • A 50,000m2 coastal park with outdoor auditoria in Barcelona (2000-4)
  • Police headquarters in La Villajoyosa (2000-3)
  • Municipal Theatre in Torrevieja (2000-6).

In Spain, projects under way include:

  • The Institute of Legal Medicine in Madrid (2006-)
  • The D-38 Office Complex in Barcelona (2004-)
  • The Hotel Masaveu in Gijón (2006-)
  • A Residential Tower in Durango (2004)

Completed projects in other European locations include:

  • The Blue Moon Hotel in Groningen, the Netherlands (1999–2000)
  • The Umraniye Retail Complex and Multiplex, in Istanbul, Turkey (2007)
  • A Villa in Pedralbes, Barcelona (2008)

Other European projects include:

  • The Mahler 4 office building in Amsterdam (2000-)
  • The future Aerospace Campus in Toulouse, France (2006-)

Projects completed in Asia include:

  • The Spanish Pavilion at the 2005 Aichi International Expo in Japan (2004-5)
  • A headquarters building for Dulnyouk Publishers, Paju, South Korea (2000-5)

In the USA FOA is developing:

In Asia FOA is currently building:

  • Two 180m high residential towers at the World Business Centre in Busan, South Korea (2006-)
  • The KL Sentral Plot D Residential Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (2006-)

FOA has won several prestigious competitions and commissions, including the BBC Music Box for the firm’s White City complex in 2003, which was widely exhibited but the client has yet to commit to build it. 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.



  • Work in progress: FOA Yokohama International Port Terminal, Architectural Association, London, 1–24 June 1995
  • FOA is one of very few practices to have represented Britain with a solo exhibition at the 8th Venice Architecture Biennale in 2002
  • FOA Breeding Architectire, ICA, London, November 29 - February 29, 2003[10]
  • FOA Designing Modern Britain, Design Museum, Until November 2006[9]
  • The work of the firm has been widely exhibited at venues including 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. ^ Foreign Office Architects at the archINFORM database.
  2. ^ a b "Foreign Office Architects - Yokohama International Port Terminal". 2002-10-28. Retrieved 2010-07-17. 
  3. ^ [1][dead link]
  4. ^ "System Tools". Worldarchitecture.Org. Retrieved 2010-07-17. 
  5. ^ Jane Rendell. Art and architecture p68
  6. ^ William S. Saunders (Editor). The New Architectural Pragmatism: A Harvard Design Magazine Reader
  7. ^ "Foreign Office Architects | icon 007 | November 2003 | ICON MAGAZINE ONLINE". Retrieved 2010-07-17. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b "Foreign Office Architects / Designing Modern Britain - Design Museum : - Design/Designer Information". Design Museum. 2006-11-26. Retrieved 2010-07-17. 
  10. ^ "Institute of Contemporary Arts : Homepage : Homepage". Retrieved 2010-07-17. 

External links[edit]