How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster? (2010)

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Released 2-Nov-2011

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Theatrical Trailer-(1.30)
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 2010
Running Time 76:00
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Carlos Carcas
Norberto López Amado

Madman Entertainment
Starring Norman Foster
Deyan Sudjic
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Joan Valent

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     The curiously titled How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr Foster? is a profile of British architect Norman Foster, now Baron Foster of Thames Bank. Foster is the head of international design mega-company Foster + partners and is responsible for some of the most impressive structures around the world. This documentary, directed by Norberto Lopez Amado and Carlos Carcas traces Foster’s life and influences from a child growing up poor in Manchester through to his life at the top end of architecture. The 76-year-old architect is prominent throughout the film explaining his theories of architectural design and his many influences. A gentle somewhat reverential narration is provided by architecture critic Devan Sudjik.

     Flight is one of the abiding influences on Foster’s work. Foster recounts that had he actually learnt to fly whilst serving in the air force during World War II then he never would have become an architect as flight remains one of his great joys in life. He expresses that joy now in his licences to fly aircraft including helicopters. However, the other influence of flight is in the final designs for some of his most notable buildings. They have a sleekness yet airiness it reminds one of the blue skies.

     Foster has been a force in British architecture since the 60s but it was with the Willis Faber and Dumas headquarters in Ipswich in 1974 that he established his name and style. Combining a black glass exterior with an open plan office environment, well before these became the norm, Foster made an announcement about the future of British design. Dubbed "the Mozart of modernism" Foster creates works of beauty and function that resonate across the ages. His works are careful to acknowledge the environment and their location, concern perhaps passed on by his sometime mentor Richard Buckminster Fuller, the quirky genius who asked the question which forms the title of this documentary. Although his influence is felt throughout the United Kingdom probably his most famous recent creation is the Swiss Re headquarters known by locals as "the gherkin". This building, which is distinctive and beautiful, also contains sophisticated energy efficient design elements.

     The documentary takes the time to look at some of his greatest creations. These include the tallest bridge in the world, the Millau viaduct in southern France with its sweeping simple designs; one of the largest buildings in the world, Beijing capital International airport; and the reconstruction of the Reichstag Building in Berlin which combined the desire to create a functional building which acknowledged but did not glamourize the past. Finally, we get a look at Masdar City in at Mugabe, a planned city dedicated to complete reliance on solar energy and renewable sources with a zero carbon zero waste ecology.

     This is a documentary about the man and his work, a loving tribute and not a critical study. It is not a dramatic piece and much of the screen time is dedicated to exploring the finished designs. Documentaries on architects are rare and this is a great opportunity for those with an interest in the subject to pick up.

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Transfer Quality


     Mr Foster is presented on DVD in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio consistent with its cinematic release. It is 16x9 enhanced.

     Information is not easily obtainable as to whether this was shot on digital video or film. It has a filmic quality. The film consists of a combination of talking heads and historic footage as well as gloriously shot tributes to his buildings. The talking heads material is clean and clear and the flesh tones are accurate. The colour is strong and stable and there is little evidence of compression, notwithstanding that this is on a single layer DVD 5, given that there is only 78 min of content on the DVD.

    There are no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Mr Foster has an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack running at 448 Kb/s.

     Having a surround track is always welcome but not really necessary in a film that largely consists of music and spoken word. Voices can be heard clearly. The only time I heard the sub-woofer come in was when some World War 2 footage was shown.

     The score is by Joan Valent. Using the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra he has produced an amazing track rich in detail and at times symphonic in its breadth. The score could stand alone quite easily.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    The only extra provided is a theatrical trailer.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.


    This release is identical to the international DVD release. Support the local product.


     Norman Foster is a British icon. His effect has been filled across the world in some of the most important public buildings. This documentary is a tribute to him and his work and will be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in architecture.

     The DVD is of fine quality both in sound and vision terms.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer SC-LX 81 7.1
SpeakersAaron ATS-5 7.1

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