Foster was raised in Manchester in a working-class family and was intrigued by design and engineering from a young age. His years observing Mancunian architecture subsequently influenced his works, and was inspired to pursue a career in architecture after a treasurer clerk noticed his sketches and interest in Manchester's buildings while he worked at Manchester Town Hall.
Foster gained an internship at a local architect's office before submitting a portfolio and winning a place at the University of Manchester School of Architecture. He subsequently won a scholarship to study at the Yale School of Architecture in the United States of America.
Foster returned to the United Kingdom in 1963 and set up a practice, Team 4 which became Foster + Partners. His breakthrough building was arguably the Willis Building in Ipswich in 1975 and he has since designed landmark structures such as Wembley Stadium and 30 St Mary Axe. He is one of Britain's most prolific architects of his generation. In 1999 he was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, often referred to as the Nobel Prize of architecture. In 2009 Foster was awarded the Prince of Asturias Award in the Arts category. In 1994 he received the AIA Gold Medal.
Modern architecture is generally characterized by simplification of form and an absence of applied decoration. It is a term applied to an overarching movement, with its exact definition and scope varying widely. In a broader sense, early modern architecture began at the turn of the 20th century with efforts to reconcile the principles underlying architectural design with rapid technological advancement and the modernization of society. It would take the form of numerous movements, schools of design, and architectural styles, some in tension with one another, and often equally defying such classification.
The concept of modernism is a central theme in these efforts. Gaining popularity after the Second World War, architectural modernism was adopted by many influential architects and architectural educators, and continues as a dominant architectural style for institutional and corporate buildings into the 21st century. Modernism eventually generated reactions, most notably Postmodernism which sought to preserve pre-modern elements, while Neomodernism emerged as a reaction to Postmodernism.