Foreign Office Architects fonds

Foreign Office Architects fonds

Part of


  • Foreign Office Architects (architectural firm)
  • Farshid Moussavi (architect)
  • Alejandro Zaera-Polo (architect)
  • Foreign Office Architects (archive creator)


Foreign Office Architects fonds

Dates of creation



  • archives

Level of archival description

Fonds 171

Extent and Medium

  • 14.8 l.m. textual records
  • 6.04 l.m. computer-generated renderings and plans
  • 5,777 colour slides
  • 1,677 colour negatives
  • 590 drawings
  • 580 photographs
  • Over 140,000 digital files
  • Other materials

Scope and Content

The fonds documents the professional practice and activities of the Foreign Office Architects between 1991 and 2011, with a primary focus on their architectural and design projects. Additionally, the fonds includes material relating to various international exhibitions, and to publications that featured the work of the Foreign Office Architects. The fonds is arranged into three series: Projects; Office Documentation; and Reference.

The fonds fluctuates in its comprehensiveness, with some projects being well documented from competition stage through to completion, while others are represented by only a few drawings, slides or a single book of presentation material. The most thoroughly documented projects include the Yokohama International Ferry Port Terminal, Japan (1995-2004), the Belgo Restaurants in London and New York City (1998-1999), the Link Quay Waterfront Competition, Santa Cruz de Tenerife (1998-2006), the South East Coastal Park & Auditorium, Barcelona, Spain (2000-2004), the Watermark West Quay Development, Southampton, England (2002-2010), the Trinity EC3 Office Complex, London, England (2003-2007), and the 2012 Summer Olympics, London, England (2003-2012).

The Projects Series consists primarily of computer-aided drawings, including design-development, construction, and presentation drawings, as well as renderings of computer-generated models and hardcopies of plans. Many projects are documented with photographic material and supported by textual records, chiefly correspondence via fax, and planning and design notes. A small amount of projects also include original sketches, models, and presentation panels.

The Office Documentation series is minimal, and consists primarily of textual records, chiefly correspondence that is often accompanied by small sketches or notes. It documents exhibition planning and the loaning of material, firm publicity and the publishing of books, as well as international competitions that the Foreign Office Architects prepared Request for Qualifications packages for. It notably includes graphic material for a book by the Foreign Office Architects titled Phylogenesis: Foa's Ark, published by Actar in 2003, images of their site-specific installation in the British Pavilion for the 2002 Venice Biennale, and formal portraits of Moussavi and Zaera-Polo by London-based photographer Valerie Bennett.

The Reference Series consists of over 5,500 slides of personal travels and architectural subject matter, about 120 publications on architectural theory and practice collected by the firm, some VHS videocassettes containing stock footage and imagery of nature, and a handful of presentation material produced by other architectural firms.

Reference Number


Administrative history

Foreign Office Architects Ltd (FOA)

The London-based architectural firm the Foreign Office Architects Ltd (FOA) was established by Farshid Moussavi and Alejandro Zaera-Polo in the early 1990s, and formally registered as a firm in 1995. The firm practiced both architecture and urban design, and self-described as being “dedicated to the exploration of contemporary urban conditions, lifestyles and construction technologies.” The firm was involved in a wide variety of projects, including housing developments, department stores, restaurants, office complexes, urban parks, auditoriums, railway stations, ferry terminals and furniture design. The international practice existed until April 2011, at which time Moussavi and Zaera-Polo dissolved the Foreign Office Architects and formed their own independent practices.

The Foreign Office Architects participated in numerous international exhibitions and expositions, including events in Spain, England, Japan, France, Portugal, Finland, Austria, Sweden, the USA, and two Venice Biennale International Architecture Exhibitions. Their multiple awards and honours include a Biennale Venezia Golden Lion Award (2004), a Royal Institute of British Architects Award (2005), a Premio AD Arquitecto del Año award (2007), and a BD Architect of the Year Award in the category of Retail Architect (2008).

Published monographs include:

FOA’s Ark_Evolving Container for the Proliferating Singularities

Korean Architecture and Culture Magazine

South Korea, December 2004

Phylogenesis: FOA’s Ark

Published by Actar

Barcelona, Spain, 2003

Complexity and Consistency

A monograph by ElCroquis, No.115/116

Madrid, Spain, 2003

The Yokohama Project

Published by Actar

Barcelona, Spain, 2002

FOA Recent Projects

Published as 2G, No. 16

Barcelona, Spain, 2002

Biographical notes


Alejandro Zaera-Polo is an internationally acclaimed architect, professor and author. He was born in Madrid, Spain, in 1963. He holds a Diploma of Architecture with Honours from the Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura, Madrid, Spain (1988), and a Masters in Architecture with Distinction (MARCHII) from the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, USA (1991).

Zaera-Polo established his own London-based practice in 1992 as ‘foreign office architects ltd’ (FOA), together with Farshid Moussavi. In 2011 the firm split into two independent practices, with Zaera-Polo forming his own practice, ‘Alejandro Zaera-Polo Architecture Limited’ (AZPA). In 2013 Zaera-Polo partnered with Maider Llaguno, a former FOA architect, to form ‘Alejandro Zaera-Polo and Maider Llaguno Architecture’ (AZPML). Zaera-Polo's professional record also includes the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, Rotterdam, the Netherlands (1991-1992).

Zaera-Polo currently holds the position of Professor of Architectural Design at the Princeton University School of Architecture. His previous academic posts include serving as Dean of the Princeton University School of Architecture (2012-2014), Dean of the Berlage Institute in Rotterdam (2002-2006), Visiting Critic at the University of California Los Angeles (2002), Princeton University (1999), Columbia University (1998) and the Berlage Institute of Architecture, Amsterdam (1997-2002), and as Associate Professor of Design at the the Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura, Madrid (1992-1995).

Zaera-Polo has lectured internationally at academic institutions, congresses and symposiums. As a theorist, his writings have appeared in international publications including El Croquis, Quaderns, A+U, Arch+, Volume and Log. In 2010 he authored the book The Sniper's Log: Architectural Chronicles of Generation-X.


Farshid Moussavi is an internationally acclaimed architect, professor and author. She was born in Shiraz, Iran, in 1965. She holds a Bachelor of Architecture from Dundee University, Scotland, a Diploma of Architecture at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London, UK (1989), and a Masters in Architecture (MARCHII) from the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, USA (1991).

Moussavi established her London-based practice in 1992 as ‘foreign office architects ltd’ (FOA), together with Alejandro Zaera-Polo. In 2011 the firm was split into two independent practices, with Moussavi forming her own practice, ‘Farshid Moussavi Architecture Limited’ (FMA). Moussavi's professional record also includes the Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Genoa, Italy (1988), and the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, Rotterdam, the Netherlands (1991-1993).

Moussavi has held the position of Professor in Practice of Architecture at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design since 2006. Her previous academic posts include Professor and Head of the Architecture Institute at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, Austria (2002-2005), Kenzo Tange Visiting Design Critic at the Harvard Design School (2005), Unit Master at the Architectural Association School of Architecture, London (1993-2000), Visiting Professor at the University of California in Los Angeles (2002), Columbia University (1998; 2001), Princeton University (1999) and the Berlage Institute of Architecture, Amsterdam (1997), and Design Professor at the Hoger Architectuur Instituut Sint-Lucas, Belgium (1993-1995).

Moussavi has lectured internationally at academic institutions, congresses and symposiums, and acted as a jury member for numerous international architectural competitions and awards. She is a member of the Board of Trustees of The Whitechapel Gallery, as well as The Architecture Foundation in London, and has previously been a member of the advisory group to the British Council, the Mayor of London’s ‘Design for London’ initiative, the International Design Committee for the London Development Agency, the RIBA Gold and Presidential medals, and the Stirling Prize for Architecture. She has authored books that have been translated into several languages, including The Function of Ornament (2006), The Function of Form (2009), and The Function of Style (2014), and has been a contributing columnist for the Architectural Review magazine since September 2011.

Conditions governing access

  • This fonds contains digital material that was received on data cartridges, CD-Rs, DVDs, videocassettes and floppy disks that is currently being processed and is temporarily unavailable for consultation. Each File with such material contains a note as to its extent, current state of processing, and availability.

Credit line

Foreign Office Architects fonds
Collection Centre Canadien d'Architecture/
Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal;
Don de Farshid Moussavi et Alejandro Zaera-Polo/
Gift of Farshid Moussavi and Alejandro Zaera-Polo


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