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ARAG Tower anniversary: Built for the future

Interview with Lord Norman Foster about a bold idea and true pioneering work


On 27 April 2001 - 20 years ago - the ARAG Tower in the north of Düsseldorf was inaugurated. Architecture legend Lord Norman Foster played a major role in the construction of the building. The building has long since written architectural history and has since shaped the city skyline. "We pursued a progressive environmental idea with the ARAG Tower," is how Lord Norman Foster sums up the basic idea behind the ARAG Tower. The British star architect rarely gives interviews these days. His works speak for him. On the 20th anniversary of the ARAG headquarters, he spoke at length in an interview for the ARAG Sustainability Report.

ARAG Tower

"According to Lord Norman Foster's philosophy, buildings are first and foremost for people. And that is exactly what happens here. Every day. For 20 years. Even though a large number of our employees are currently working from home due to the pandemic, this building is far more than just a workplace for all of us. It is a meeting place, a retreat and a creative thinking space," emphasizes Dr. Dr. h. c. Paul-Otto Faßbender, Chairman of the Board of Management of ARAG Holding SE and developer of the ARAG Tower.

Interview with Lord Norman Foster

Lord Norman Foster, the ARAG Tower, which you realized in partnership with the German architectural firm RKW Architektur + Rhode Kellermann Wawrowsky GmbH and which became a landmark to Düsseldorf, not only left its mark on the skyline, but even now is still a shining example in terms of energy savings and a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. What was your basic idea at the time, when you designed this high-rise against the backdrop of aesthetics and sustainability?

Lord Norman Foster: The design of the ARAG building pushed an unashamedly progressive environmental agenda. The high-performance, double-skin glazed facade forms a weather shield and sun filter on the outside, while on the inside an inner layer, with openable windows, allows the building to breathe. Maximum use is made of daylight, and the construction allows passive cooling with night storage so that air conditioning is rarely needed. Internally, office floors are simple and open in feel. To create the maximum usable floor area, lift shafts are pushed to the corners, with glass lifts allowing panoramic views across the city.

Double-height "sky gardens" punctuate the building at every eighth floor. Planted with “meadows” of tall grasses and wildflowers, the gardens provide an informal meeting areas and relaxation spaces. Open access between office floors and the gardens encourages a friendly atmosphere as well as improving communication between staff.

Glass seems to play a very important role in your designs. Around 5,200 panes of glass in the double facade ensure that the appearance of the ARAG Tower is crystal clear. What significance does glass have for you and your work in terms of aesthetics and sustainability?

Lord Norman Foster: It is about an appropriate materiality. In cooler climes, glass is your friend, while thick insulating walls or a more layered and shaded approach would work better in hot, arid regions.

In recent years, sustainability has increasingly become the focus of attention - how has this changed your life, and how do you implement sustainability in your office routine?

Lord Norman Foster: Sustainability has been at the heart of the practice's work from the early days. This approach has changed and evolved over the decades. We evaluate sustainability under ten key metrics: Well-being, Community Impact, Energy and Carbon, Water, Resources, Mobility and Connectivity, Land and Ecology, Social Equity, Planning for Change, and Feedback. The metrics offer a broad and holistic methodology to assess sustainability performance.

If you as an architect could make a sustainable wish come true, what would be your dream project?

Lord Norman Foster: To contribute to the city of the future, achievable in the present, which will be greener, quieter, safer, more sustainable and friendly - and more fun


The entire interview (in German) will be available as a download in the ARAG Sustainability Report 2020 from 30 April.

The ARAG Tower in figures

  • Height: 124.88 meters
  • Groundbreaking: 2 December 1998
  • Topping out: 1 March 2000
  • Inauguration: 27 April 2001
  • Gross floor area: 45,543 square meters (more than six football pitches)
  • Above-ground floors: 32
  • Stairs to the roof terrace: 620
  • Glass panes: 5,200
  • Energy-efficient lamps: 15,000

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