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David Nelson
Head of Design, Foster + Partners
“The Sustainable City”

Sustainability has been a central theme of Foster + Partners’ work for more than 40 years,with buildings like the Reichstag in Berlin (1992-99) and Commerzbank Headquarters in Frankfurt (1991-1997). Most recently, the design of Masdar, a 1,483-acre, carbon-neutral, zero-waste planned community in Abu Dhabi shows how holistic environmental thinking is now being applied at an urban scale. David Nelson will present the Masdar scheme, alongside a number of other sustainable planning projects, which reflect the practice’s commitment to designing for a sustainable future.


David Nelson studied three-dimensional design at Loughborough College of Art and Hornsey College of Art, specialising in furniture and industrial design, before gaining a Master’s degree at the Royal College of Art Environmental Design School. In 1974 he received a travelling scholarship to study town planning in northern Italy.He began working at Foster Associates in 1976, and some of his most important early projects included the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts and the Hammersmith Centre. In 1979 he joined the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank team, eventually sharing joint responsibility for the project. He was made a director of Foster Associates in 1984.He returned to London in 1986 and became the director responsible for, among other projects, the American Air Museum at Duxford, Century Tower in Tokyo and many other projects in Asia, Europe, Australia and the USA. Since becoming a partner in 1991, he has worked on many projects including the New German Parliament in the Reichstag, Berlin. He has also overseen a number of transport projects, including Bilbao Metro in Spain, North Greenwich Transport Interchange and Canary Wharf Underground station in London. Recent projects include the Petronas University of Technology in Malaysia, Stanford University Laboratories in California, the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, the new Supreme Court in Singapore, the Florence High-speed Railway Station, an office tower and mixed-use development in Sydney, Australia, Central Markets Abu Dhabi and a new headquarters building for YTL in Kuala Lumpur.He was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the RIBA in 2002. Now Senior Executive, he has assumed a broader role in the office and shares overall design responsibility for all projects as joint Head of Design.


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