HIGH-TECH ARCHITECTURE


HIGH-TECH ARCHITECTURE
   High-Tech architecture grew out of the Post-Modernist style of the 1970s and 1980s to reveal an increased focus on the artistic display of more highly technical aspects of construction. With the battle cry of "form follows function," early modern architects led the way in elevating the formal elements of buildings by stripping away all applied decoration. Yet in buildings such as Walter Gropius's Fagus Shoe Company, built in Alfeld an der Leine, Germany, in 1911-1913, Gropius masked the steel frame of the building with thin brick piers. In the 1920s, the increasingly complex structural aspects of taller buildings pushed engineering innovations to their limits. Still, the structural components of these early skyscrapers remained hidden from view, despite their glorification in other types of constructions such as the famous steel Brooklyn Bridge, built in 1867-1883 by the Roeblings, or the Eiffel Tower, built by Gustav Eiffel in Paris in 1887-1889. In High-Tech architecture, the structural aspects of a building take on an aesthetic character themselves, while the utilitarian aspects are taken out of hiding and placed on the exterior of the building. The style was first described in High Tech: The Industrial Style and Source Book for the Home, published by Joan Kron and Suzanne Slesin in 1978. While the book demonstrates how industrial design and furnishings can be used within the home, its most famous examples are public buildings.
   High-Tech architecture is best expressed in large urban civic structures or tall office buildings. The Centre National d'Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou, built in Paris in 1971-1977 by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, is one of the earliest examples of this style. This massive public building houses a museum of modern art, a public library, and centers for music and design, and because it is heavily used, the interior needed to remain as uncluttered as possible. Piano and Rogers therefore placed not only the steel frame on the outside of the building, but also the electrical wiring units, the air conditioning tubes and the water pipes, as well as the escalators, thus creating a vast exo-skeletal structure that contrasts vividly with the surrounding neighborhood. Each component was painted a different color, with the air conditioning ducts painted a bright blue, the elevators a rich red, the water pipes a green, and the electrical components a yellow.
   High-Tech architecture is not a regional but an international style. Norman Foster's Hongkong and Shanghai Bank, built in Hong Kong in 1986, is another example of this style. This 47-story skyscraper features a white and gray steel frame on its exterior, with girders providing additional support. The building does not have the traditional service core, as earlier skyscrapers do, but instead it is located on the external east and west sides. Each floor is attached to this outer structure, and beneath the steel frame is a continuous line of curtain windows. A sophisticated computer tracks the sunlight and directs it into the building, reducing the need for artificial light. High-Tech architectural elements have gradually become more focused on these types of utilitarian innovations, with a desire to increase energy efficiency. For example, Ralph Erskine's "London Ark," a massive office building completed in London in 1992, looks like a giant ocean liner but is best known for its innovative use of a new, more efficient cooling system. High-Tech architecture will certainly remain focused on these issues as its style moves into the future.

Historical Dictionaries of Literature and the Arts. . 2008.

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