Page last updated at 10:09 GMT, Thursday, 21 May 2009 11:09 UK

Architect Foster wins arts prize

Lord Norman Foster
Lord Foster was honoured with a Life Peerage in 1999

British architect Lord Norman Foster has been awarded one of Spain's highest honours, the Prince of Asturias Prize for Arts.

Lord Foster beat 25 other nominees from 11 countries, including actress Vanessa Redgrave, for the £44,000 prize.

He will officially receive the award from Crown Prince Felipe in October.

Lord Foster, 73, is famous for his steel and glass designs, including London's Swiss Re tower - known as The Gherkin - and the Millennium Bridge.

His other projects have included the restoration of the Reichstag in Berlin, Hong Kong Airport, the Millau viaduct in France and Gateshead's Sage Music Centre.

'Aesthetic quality'

The award is given every year to an individual or group whose work in architecture, film, dance, visual arts or other forms of art constitutes a "significant contribution to mankind's cultural heritage".

The announcement was made in Oviedo in the northern Spanish province of Asturias by Jose Llado, chairman of the jury.

Mr Llado said the jury had decided to award the prize to Lord Foster whose work "combines aesthetic quality, intellectual reflection and dialogue between territory and citizens through an original mastery of space, light and material".

The Gherkin
Lord Foster's projects include the Swiss Re building

He described Lord Foster as "an architect of the global era... at the service of sustainable development and of personal and social freedom".

The other artists on the shortlist were Spanish Catalan singer-songwriter Joan Manuel Serrat, the Spanish film-maker Carlos Saura, the US sculptor Richard Serra and the Spanish composer Cristobal Halffter.

Last year the award went to El Sistema - the publicly financed network of Venezuelan youth orchestras known as which aims to provide children from impoverished backgrounds away from the streets.

The Prince of Asturias awards are also given in the fields of writing, social sciences, scientific research, communications and humanities, international cooperation, public service and sports.

Named after Crown Prince Felipe, they are presented in the northern Spanish city of Oviedo, capital of the Asturias region.

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