‘A floor that meets all the requirements’
The star architect Lord Norman Foster at the 50th anniversary of norament 926
Weinheim, November 2017 – Even today, droves of architecture students from all over the world still regularly come to Ipswich in Suffolk, England. Their destination: the Willis, Faber & Dumas office building – today known as Willis Towers Watson building – which has become a classic in the architectural world. The project designed by Foster + Partners and completed in 1975 was considered a pioneering achievement in the field of office properties. To build it, they used a variety of what was then ground-breaking construction methods, techniques and materials. This included norament 926 – the round pastille flooring made from rubber by nora systems. Lord Norman Foster’s vision for the flagship project was to find a floor covering that would be universally suitable for a range of different uses. By using a shade of bright green, the British star architect wanted to bring nature into the office building. The colour – now called ‘Ipswich Green’ – is still part of nora’s standard range to this day. On norament’s 50th anniversary, Lord Norman Foster takes a look back at this project.
How did you become aware of norament 926 back then and what did you notice in par-ticular about the rubber flooring?
LF: Flexibility was the key word when constructing the Willis Faber building. We were looking for a floor material that could be used everywhere – from the entrance hall to the engineering room. The flooring also had to be extremely robust and long-lasting. norament 926 met both these requirements and was therefore the right solution for a variety of different uses.
Why did you think of a green floor covering for the Willis Coroon building?
LF: At the very top of the building there is a roof garden, which we wanted to integrate into the building by creating a kind of ‘green carpet’. The ‘nature’ theme had to be taken up again inside the building as well. The green we had in mind was not part of the nora product range at the time but by working closely with the company, we were able to develop the colour shade specially for the Willis Towers Watson building project. Of course, the colour green also emphasises the sustainability of the building.
What vision did you have for the building and which design concept did you adopt?
LF: When it was built, the Willis Faber building was designed to take into account future po-tential requirements due to technical progress made. So a few years later, for example, it was able to cope with the transition from typewriters to electronic word processing systems without any problems. This was made possible by the raised floors fitted throughout the whole building, where computer cables could be stored. This design detail was revolutionary in the middle of the 1970s; at that time, this construction was otherwise only used in server rooms. The aim of our design concept was also to improve quality of life in the workplace and bring light and air into the building.
Did you anticipate at the time that the green shade you developed would be such a success and that ‘your’ colour would remain a firm component of the nora product portfolio to this day?
LF: The distinctive green was a big success straight away, quite apart from the Willis Coroon project. I remember the architect James Stirling used the shade shortly afterwards for the Stuttgart State Gallery (Stuttgarter Staatsgalerie). Lime green still remains a very popular shade even now. When I was researching at that time, it was a sample of material that gave me the inspiration for it.
1 - Carolyn Djanogly, 2 - Manolo Yllera, 3, 4 - Nigel Young / Foster+Partners
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About nora systems
nora systems develops, produces and markets high-quality, elastic floor coverings as well as shoe components under the nora® brand. The company, which has its headquarters in the German town of Weinheim, was created from Freudenberg Bausysteme KG in 2007 and, as the global market leader, has shaped the development of rubber floor coverings for many years. With its more than 1,000 employees, nora systems generated a turnover of €229.1 million in 2017.