Since its completion in 1982, the now familiar dancing yellow structure at Swindon has come to stand as an icon, not just for its corporate client, the Renault car manufacturing company, but also for a new alliance of architecture, advanced engineering and craft manufacturing technique.
Chris Abel argues that the Renault Centre marks a turning point both in its architect's career, and in the continuing evolution of the Modern Movement. True to the Movement's social concerns, the building makes a liberal statement on industrial relations. Rejecting any distinctions between white- and blue-collar workers, Foster's design gathers ail employees together under the same striking umbrella roof.
The structural expressionism seen here was unexpected. In his earlier work, Norman Foster's closed-form pavillon buildings generally presented a standardized appearance, even when non-standard components were used. By contrast, the expressive quality of the Renault building derives from a unique, boldly exposed structure, and from a craft approach to architecture exploiting both First and Second Machine Age production technologies.
This monograph is a uniquely detailed and authoritative record of the Renault Centre, produced by Chris Abel from the Foster Associates' archives, and photographed and drawn under his supervision. Its illustrated essay, portfolio of large-format photographs (many in full colour), 24 pages of specially drawn technical details, and fact-sheets and bibliography are unlikely ever to be surpassed in a single publication.