David Nelson

David Nelson

Senior Executive Partner Head of Design RCA (MA)

David studied 3-dimensional, furniture and industrial design before gaining a master’s degree at Royal College of Art Environmental Design School. He joined the practice in 1976, moving to Hong Kong in 1983 to work on the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank. He returned to London in 1986 and since has led projects across all scales – from furniture to infrastructure. He now shares overall design responsibility at the practice. David loves racing cars and new technologies and likes to walk the length and breadth of cities, particularly new destinations.


David Nelson is co-head of design sharing design responsibility for all Foster + Partners’ projects. He sits on the practice’s Design Board that has full responsibility for design within the office. It has the authority to instigate, change and redirect design as deemed necessary. While David’s involvement is important in the early, conceptual design phases of a project, he ensures continuity and quality at every stage of a project, as well as encouraging the sharing of expertise across the project teams on various issues, such as urban design and sustainability. David is a Senior Executive Partner, and guides the studio strategically as a member of the Partnership Board. Sustainability is one of his key areas of interest.

He studied three-dimensional design at Loughborough College of Art and Hornsey College of Art, specialising in furniture and industrial design, before gaining a Master’s degree at the Royal College of Art Environmental Design School. In 1974, he received a travelling scholarship to study town planning in northern Italy. Reflecting this education David also oversees the studios Industrial Design team.

He joined the practice in 1976, working on a number of important early projects, including the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts and the Hammersmith Centre. In 1979, he joined the team working on the design of the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank, eventually sharing design responsibility for the project. He was made a Director in 1984. He returned to London in 1986 and became the director responsible for a wide range of projects, including the American Air Museum at Duxford, Century Tower in Tokyo and many other projects in Asia, Europe, Australia and the USA.

He has worked on many projects including the New German Parliament in the Reichstag, Berlin. He has also overseen a number of transport projects, including Bilbao Metro in Spain, North Greenwich Transport Interchange and Canary Wharf Underground station in London. Other projects include the Petronas University of Technology in Malaysia, Stanford University Laboratories in California, the McLaren Technology Centre and Production Centre in Woking, the new Supreme Court in Singapore, the Florence High-speed Railway Station, Deutschebank  and Lumiere Residential in Sydney, Australia, Central Market and Masdar City in Abu Dhabi and the Apple Campus in California.

He was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the RIBA in 2002.

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