Born as a revamped emissary of Modernist functionality, the High Tech design style is based on uncomplicated plans that rigorously combine the use of factory-produced materials and a tendency to expose a building's structural systems. Perhaps most importantly, High Tech architecture... [more]
Born as a revamped emissary of Modernist functionality, the High Tech design style is based on uncomplicated plans that rigorously combine the use of factory-produced materials and a tendency to expose a building's structural systems. Perhaps most importantly, High Tech architecture gives little consideration to the symbolic form of the building, relying instead on technological sophistication to ground its aesthetic -- the Pompidou Centre, while in fact containing a museum, could easily have functioned as a factory, a warehouse, or an office building.
High Tech architecture was developed by a group of British architects in the 1970s who expressed an interest in Richard Buckminster Fuller's dymaxion principles, which signified 'dynamism plus efficiency.' The possibility of a refined, technologically efficient, and universal industrial architecture was vaunted as an ideal heir to the lost trajectory of the pre-war Modern movement -- the seeds for such a movement had been taking shape in the industrial vernacular of Peter and Allison Smithson's House of the Future (1956) and in the visionary space-age imagery and plug-in architecture of Archigram in the '60s. From these origins emerged the High Tech style, originally developed by the brief pairing of Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano (designers of the Centre Pompidou), as well as by their contemporaries, Norman Foster and Michael Hopkins. Rogers's canonical Lloyd's Building (1978-86) in London perhaps best epitomizes High Tech architecture. The building's exposed ducts, structured towers, and free-standing frames are meant to create a maximum flexibility and efficiency in the internal space. Similar approaches were developed in Foster's Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank and in the Century Tower office building in Tokyo.
The principle of High Tech architecture relies on nothing more than a combination of machined parts that are maximally flexible and, ideally, interchangeable. This is not to say that the buildings are full-scale versions of a Meccano toy set; rather, they are an attempt to fully integrate the functions of a building -- from the mechanical ducts to the structural systems -- in a composite whole, to free the 'messy' aspects of design from the veneer of pleasing materials. More often than not, this attempt may be understood as an attempt to provide "a neutral and maximally flexible shed, rendered possible by an integrated service network; and the vivid expression of the building's structure and services as well as the process of production itself."
While High Tech architecture has come under considerable criticism for its fetishized technological aesthetic and complete disregard for the cultural history of a place, the possibility of applying advanced architectural engineering to urban problems remains one bound to further exploration. Despite his current engagement in the design of the ridiculously overblown Millennium Dome in London, Richard Rogers's recent work has rigorously pursued a deep interest in environmental issues. His work addresses the continuing need to employ technology in the development of new architectural prototypes when faced with the increasingly limited resources of our burgeoning cities.