High-Tech architecture is also known as ‘late modernism’ or ‘structural expressionism’. This architectural style is the one that incorporates elements from new high-tech industries and advanced construction techniques into building design. It was developed in the 1970s, originally in Britain, and utilised advanced technology and new building materials.

This style evolved as a response to the monotonous standard structure that was designed under the umbrella of modern architecture of that time. The architecture of brick walls and wooden floors seemed immutable and old-fashioned. The designers and architects were charmed by the raw aesthetics of grain silos and factories in which form was dictated by function. 

However, the movement has roots in earlier styles and draws inspiration from earlier periods. Its principles have been heavily influenced by prominent figures like Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, and Meis Van de Rohe.

History | High-tech Architecture

This style of architecture developed from modernism and is now often seen as the link between modernism and postmodernism. It attached importance to the object itself, the building, rather than the functional use of space. Inspired by technological progress, the aesthetic is also industrial. It emphasizes transparency in the design of buildings. Communication through the underlying structure and function of the building throughout its interior and exterior. 

High tech architecture has a material palette that extensively uses aluminium, glass, steel, and, to an extent, concrete. As with industrialization, these materials were available readily, in wider variety and forms especially during the time high tech architecture was developing. It sought to integrate the technical equipment of the building into its structure, combining functionality with its aesthetics.

The architectural style usually lacks internal load-bearing walls. Reconfigurable spaces are also one of the key elements of design. Most buildings also have overhanging floors. Bright colours are used in some projects in an attempt to evoke a sense of drawing or diagram. As is evident in the case of the following examples. 

1. Centre Pompidou

This building was designed by the architect Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano in the year 1977. It is designed as a highly flexible container for art. The Pompidou embodies the ideals of high-tech architecture. The style of architecture is sometimes also referred to as ‘Bowellism’. Bowellism is a modern and high-tech architecture style, which is heavily associated with Richard Rogers. 

Sometimes known as the inside-out architecture, this transient architectural and flippant style was heavily influenced by Le Corbusier and Antoni Gaudi.

An overview of High-tech Architecture Sheet1
Centre Pompidou in Paris_©Pinterest.co

The Centre Pompidou is adorned on the outside by lifts, escalators, and ventilation ducts,  around a vast steel frame, leaving the interior spaces completely open and adaptable. 

2. HSBC Building

The HSBC building built in 1979 is also an example of high-tech architecture. The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Headquarters was designed by Foster Associates. It is a forty-four-storeyed high-tech skyscraper established by Norman Foster as a global brand. The building was designed to meet the brief of creating the best bank headquarters in the world.

An overview of High-tech Architecture Sheet2
HSBC Building by Foster Associates_©Dezeen.com

The aesthetics of architecture are delegated to its engineering, avoiding the question of style and appearance, history and context. The services which are generally concealed within the central core were exhibited on the exterior of the building.

3. Lloyd’s Building

The Lloyd’s building in London designed by Richard Rogers is the second major building following the Centre Pompidou, which is one of the 1980s most recognizable pieces of architecture.

An overview of High-tech Architecture Sheet3
The Lloyd’s Building in London_©ArchDaily.com

Like the earlier project, Lloyd’s building is innovative in having its services on the outside. This leaves a decluttered space inside. There are 3 main towers and three service towers around a central rectangular space. The higher floors can be accessed by exterior lifts.

4. Willis Faber and Dumas Building

Another project of high-tech architecture is the Willis Faber and Dumas building, by Foster Associates. It was built in 1975. It is a three-storeyed office block that is wrapped by a curved glass curtain wall hanging from the building structure. The building stands at the end of Ipswich.

An overview of High-tech Architecture Sheet4
Willis Faber and Dumas Building_©Dezeen.com

The medieval street layout of the historic town shapes the irregular site. The design aimed at encouraging a greater sense of community for the employees. This was achieved by providing an uninterrupted and flexible internal area, used as an open-plan office.

5. Renault Distribution Center | High-tech Architecture

Renault Distribution Center in Swindon is one of the most extraordinary and articulate examples of the high-tech architectural style. The Renault Distribution Center was the leading distribution facility in the UK for the French car manufacturer Renault. It was completed in 1982 by Foster Associates.

An overview of High-tech Architecture Sheet5
Renault Distribution Center in Swindon_©Dezeen.com

The distinctive roof of the building was created for industrial racking and storage as Renault required a flexible space with large, open areas. Collectively the structure is made from forty-two square modules that are each 24 meters by 24 meters. A PVC membrane stretches across each module for the roof.

With high-tech architecture, the word ‘tech’, seemingly became something physical. The building and services finally came together to express an ideal architecture of the digital industry.

High tech architecture is not only the architecture we experience today, but it is a style with endless possibilities for the future. The high-tech style has mutated over the years into what we see at present and will continue to do so in the future.

References | High-tech Architecture

  • https://www.designingbuildings.co.uk/wiki/High-tech_architecture#:~:text=’High%2Dtech’%20is%20an,construction%20techniques%20into%20building%20design.&text=Developed%20out%20of%20modernism%2C%20high,a%20functional%20use%20of%20space.
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-tech_architecture
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lloyd%27s_building#Design
  • https://www.dezeen.com/2019/12/20/15-key-high-tech-buildings/
  • https://www.ft.com/content/92d5063a-277d-11e8-9274-2b13fccdc744
  • https://www.dezeen.com/2019/11/18/norman-foster-renault-distribution-centre-swindon/

Currently, in the fourth year of B.Arch course at IIT Roorkee, Mansi Dengre is a young and passionate writer. Her area of interest lies in the softer aspects of design, the society, culture and narratives, and green architecture. Sometimes you might find her lost in books and music.