Characteristics of High-Tech Architecture

Use of High-Tech

The early 1970s was the first time that hollow structural moulded steel could be used as a building material, so there was a lot of experimentation with this material at the time. As a result, most early examples of high-tech architecture used exposed structural steel as their material of choice.

In the meantime, high-tech materials from aeronautical, space or energy technology are being integrated and ecological solutions are being worked out with scientists - as in the case of the Reichstag dome in Berlin by Norman Foster, for example. Controllable façades for the ventilation of large glass buildings also play a role (for example in the case of the debis-Haus in Berlin). For membranes and outer shells, models from the animal kingdom have been used in some cases, such as the structure of dolphin skin.

Use of Prefabricated Components

For buildings of high-tech architecture, components and entire building systems are industrially prefabricated on the basis of modern technologies with precision engineering in a simple aesthetic, in order to then assemble them on the building site. Preference is given to industrial production methods with glass, metal or plastic - as "clean" building materials. High-tech architecture was the first to use replaceable modules in construction ("plug-in elements") in order to reduce the maintenance effort for wearing parts.

Presentation of Technology

As with Brutalism, High-Tech architecture emphasises the structure of the building. But in contrast to Brutalism's emphasis on concrete exterior walls, glass façades and steel structures are typical features of High-Tech buildings. This has its roots in modern architecture and was influenced by Mies van der Rohe's high-rise buildings - for example, the 860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments in Chicago. The Willis Tower by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, built in 1974 as the Sears Tower, showed that very tall buildings could be constructed from glass facades and a skeletal structure.

The technology that goes into a building is deliberately presented in high-tech architecture. Technical elements as well as constructional details are particularly emphasised - for example, by visually highlighting technical and functional components of a building (sometimes by oversizing them).

In high-tech architecture, for example, the internal steel or concrete structures as well as the technical equipment are exposed in order to make them the visual focus. In the process, the fascination with technology led to the aestheticisation of the technical types of construction - for example in the form of visible supporting structures and supply systems. Monumental "building machines" such as the Lloyds Building in London (1979-1984) were created under these aspects. The most famous example is the Centre Pompidou (1971-1977). Here, the idea of revealed structure is taken to the extreme - with seemingly structural building elements that play little or no role in the structure. In this case, the use of structural steel serves a stylistic or aesthetic purpose. Also, the pipes for the ventilation system are prominently visible on the outside of the building. This was a radical design, as in the past such systems were hidden inside the building. The access routes were also highlighted and run in separate tubes.

The planned and consistent way in which buildings in the high-tech architectural style are designed to preserve their functional essence is also evident in Norman Foster's HSBC Main Building (Hong Kong).


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High-Tech Architecture
Norman Foster
Prefabricated Components
Richard Rogers
Structural Expressionism


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This page was last changed on 2021-09-21.