Friends of Freie Universität Berlin (FFUB) celebrated its Annual Gala on Thursday, February 26, 2004, honoring Lord Foster of Thames Bank with the 2004 Transatlantic Bridge Award. The event took place at the Pierre Hotel in New York and was attended by over 330 friends and supporters, including representatives from business, government, the United Nations diplomatic core, architectural community and academia. Lord Foster, “Britain’s most celebrated living architect” (Financial Times), was applauded for his visionary work in the field and for his significant contributions in the cities of New York and Berlin.
In his remarks, Lord Foster discussed the importance of building on the past rather than eradicating it, however difficult this task may be. He recognized the German government’s willingness to envision the Reichstag Dome as a structure that directly links the past while addressing the need to build anew for a brighter future. He also distinguished the Freie Universität Berlin, noting his library project on the campus as the only other commission he selected to undertake while working in Berlin on the Reichstag.
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The Transatlantic Bridge Award is given to individuals who embrace salient global challenges and by their vision, character and leadership, achieve significant contributions on both sides of the Atlantic. Lord Foster’s work on the new German Parliament in Berlin, and most recently in New York at the World Trade Center site, place him at the forefront of responsible leadership, serving as a bridge whose vision builds upon the past, exhibiting rebirth for the future. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder wrote, “by conferring on Lord Foster the Transatlantic Bridge Award, FFUB paid tribute to a man whose life’s work has had a truly international impact.” As the first distinguished recipient of this Award, Lord Foster inaugurates this legacy for Friends of Freie Universität Berlin.
Hélène Sostarich-Barsamian, Executive Director of FFUB expressed her gratitude “for the presence of so many distinguished representatives of EU governments, and in particular the German government, who have demonstrated their support for the mission and vision of the FFUB. In a written statement that evening, Governor Pataki applauded FFUB for its, “commitment to building a mutually rewarding relationship between Germany and the United States, founded upon a shared respect and appreciation for democratic ideals.”
The gala also served to launch FFUB’s $2.5 million capital campaign for the Henry Ford Building on the FU Berlin campus. René Reich-Graefe, President of the Board of Directors introduced the President of Deutscher Verein, Kurt Leopold, as Chairman of the campaign. For the last 50 years, the Henry Ford Building has served as a symbol of the historic ties between America and Germany.
Named for the support Henry Ford II provided to the University during its founding years, funds raised will refurbish and modernize the interior and exterior of the building, creating a learning appropriate for the 21st century. FU Berlin President Dr. Dieter Lenzen emphasized this project as a significant milestone for the University’s continued expansion towards a multidisciplinary, internationally diverse and academically recognized institution of higher learning.