"We are pleased that our institution is the first to recognize the truly important and historic contributions Mr. Foster has made to the field of Industrial Design," commented Christian Narkiewicz-Laine, President of the Chicago Athenaeum.
"Over a celebrated, five decade career as head of Foster + Partners, Norman Foster has designed a distinctive variety of sublime, streamlined objects from airplanes and luxury yachts and boats, to chairs, seating, lighting, airline seating, and other furniture, kitchens, bathroom fixtures, windows, door hardware, buses, retail environments, museum installations, pen holders and office equipment, wind turbines, gas stations, and even a children's playground following his unique design sense to expand the human experience with design solutions that are bold, robust, inventive, vigorously functional, and assuredly pragmatic.
"From his designs for the sleek Dassault Falcon 7X (2010) and his luxurious Panthalassa Sailing Yacht (2009) to his recent design for a geometrically sculptured tableware collection for the Danish firm Stelton A/S (2018), Foster brings to his industrial design objects, not only international acclaim, but an even greater aura for the masterfully and skillfully designed industrial object that he has engineered and shaped, which are timelessly elegant and exceedingly innovative-much the same as his iconic building commissions.
"This colossal, stellar architect known for his brilliant achievements in global architecture, has even recently designed a humble playground for children."
Each year, The American Prize for Design is awarded jointly by The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies to designers who have made a commitment to forward the principles of design excellence within the context of our contemporary society and who have elevated design to a more a profound humanist statement about how our modern contemporary society can advance and progress as a result.
Last year, the Prize was given to Daimler AG Design Chief, Gorden Wagener, head of the Mercedes-Benz Brand.
"This is an architect who follows the tradition of Le Corbusier, Alvar Aalto, Walter Gropius, Otto Wagner, Gio Ponti, Charles Eames, Eero Saarinen, and Frank Lloyd Wright in translating their unique design philosophies and visionary aspirations to include, not just simply buildings, but designs for the total environment," Narkiewicz-Laine continued.
"That tradition began in the late 19th-Century when classical architects designed steam locomotives during the Industrial Revolution. And why not? Architects are the most suitably trained and educated professionals to design everything from chairs to cities.
"The Italian architect Ernesto Rogers famously declared that he wanted to design everything from 'a spoon to a city.' In some cases, this meant design for specific commissions. In others, objects allowed the realization of ideas on a smaller, more viable scale, or were a part of a multifaceted career that spanned all realms of design, as in the case of Michael Graves and Robert Venturi.
"Products by these icon-makers function as miniature buildings, conveying the architect's ideals in a compact form; or as Charles Eames put it when asked why he made furniture: 'so I can design a piece of architecture that you can hold in your hand.'"