July 4, 2016
by juan
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High-Tech architecture and its evolution to the Eco-tech

High-tech architecture comes to light in the 60´s of the XX Century, taking its name from the book written by Suzanne Sleinn and Joan Kron, called “The Industrial Style and Source Book for The Home”.  This architectural style is also called Late Modernism by same authors as they consider high-tech style to be the mixture of Modernism and technology.

There is a general consensus that whatever we do now to change the way in which we use resources will affect the way future generations will live.  One of the most famous definitions of sustainability rightly indicates that sustainability is meant “to satisfy the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Brundtland Commission).

The major architectural trends of the 20th century have therefore reached the 21st century incorporating the concept of sustainability and what began as an architectural trendsustainable architecture, also known as eco-architecture or green architecture – is now an underlying trend in all the current architectural trends.

Obviously high tech architecture does not escape this reality.  The basis of this architectural trend is to play creatively with spaces to produce works that evidence the use of technology and it even shows with pride the complexity of the technique used.

In its twenty-first century version, the architectural trend high-tech incorporates sustainability into its buildings.  The 1973 oil crisis makes many of the early buildings of high-tech decline by their high maintenance cost and the main architects of this movement to had to find a way to “recycle it”.

At the International Conference held in Florence in 1993, the subject of the incorporation of renewable energy in architecture and urban planning pops out and architects such as Renzo Piano, Norman Foster and Thomas Herzong, among others, come together to promote the creation of the Group READ, with the aim of studying the use of renewable energy in the construction and the creation of environmentally friendly projects.  This movement evolved to what is called today eco-tech, which is one of the branches of sustainable architecture.

We introduce three representative works of the eco-tech version of  high-tech. They have in common that they have been designed by famous architects of important architectural firms. The two first cases also share the fact that they are additions to previous  works of a different which they complement with class, but not without controversy. The third work, while it is new, is integrated masterfully to its environment, which includes a fragment of a medieval wall.

All the three works shown here appeal to the use of transparency and geometry, boast technology, are sculptural, make brilliant use of light, save energy, shock with its aesthetics, and all of them are iconic and each one on its wn own way is a “Manifesto”. Enjoy them here.

There are also many things in common between the three architects, since besides the brief partnership between Norman Foster and Richard Rogers, the three became creditors of the most famous Prize in international architecture, the Pritzker Prize.

Norman Foster and a crystal dome for the Reichstag

Norman Foster, an architect we already mentioned in our blog about  invisible architecture directs one of the most innovative architecture firms of the planet with a sustainable approach to architecture.  Norman Foster refuses to be classified as a high-tech architect even if he is one of the most important exponents of this architectural trend. Same happens with architect Richard Rogers, mentioned as well in our previous blog about the Pompidou Center in Paris and and later on at the last part of this article.

Norman Foster has participated in the design of public infrastructure and private buildings all around the world. In this case, we want to highlight a work in particular whose commission he won in 1993: the reconstruction and design of the dome of the Reichstag.

It is a Crystal dome rising on the top of the reconstructed building of the Reichstag in Berlin. This dome is open to the public and can be reached through two steel ramps that simulate a double helix. From the dome you can enjoy a 360 degree view of the urban landscape surrounding Berlin.

Foster’s dome is designed to be environmentally friendly and looks for energy efficiency to reduce the carbon emissions of the building.  It is equipped with a temperature control system whose main function involves the use of the daylight that is reflected through a cone of mirrors that supply with natural light to almost all of the interior spaces.  Additionally, it has a water collecting system that brings water to the inside of this structure cooling the atmosphere in summer.

With this cupola or dome, Norman Foster tries to represent the German reunification. Its distinctive appearance makes it a tourist reference point in Berlin.

NAME:  Reichstag Dome

ARCHITECT: Norman Foster


LOCATION: Reichstag Building, Berlin, Germany.

PRIZES AND RECOGNITIONS:  Pritzker Prize (1999)

IMAGES : Projects / Reichstag, New German Parliament Berlin, Germany 1992 – 1999


Ieoh Ming Pei and his controversial pyramid of the Louvre Museum

Ieoh Ming Pei is an architect that is also familiar to our blog. We made reference to him in one of our articles on high-tech architecture where we refer to his authorship of the Tower of the Bank of China emulating a bamboo branch, standing in the skies of Hong Kong

Born in 1917 in China and naturalized American, Pei studied architecture at the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to then expand his training teaching at Harvard as an Assistant Professor under the tutelage of two famous European architects: Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer.

Pei has been one of the most important contemporary architects and always stood by the use of abstract forms, by the incorporation of Feng  Shui and his oriental background in the aesthetics of his works, and by the creative use of space. His favorite materials are steel, cement and glass. As happens with the most prominent representatives of the high-tech – or rather the eco-tech-, his particular aesthetic never goes unnoticed.

Like Norman Foster (1999), he was awarded with the Pritzker Prize (1983), which is the most prestigious international architecture award. He has also received the gold medal from the American Institute of Architects, and other many distinctions.

The pyramid of the Louvre Museum is one of his most representative and controversial works.  This museum holds one of the best and most extensive collections of art in the world. Built in 1200 as a fortress, it turned into a palace in 1500, and a Museum in 1793 being refurbished periodically ever since.

The Louvre Pyramid was inaugurated in 1989 to make it coincide with the bicentennial of the French Revolution.  It is located in the courtyard of the Louvre Museum serving as an access to it. Before, it was built the entrance to the Louvre had some long queues. With its construction, this problem was solved and the exhibition space of the Museum increased. As curious data, the Louvre Pyramid has the same proportions as the pyramid of Cheops in Egypt.  With this, Pei wanted to symbolize the continuity of culture.

Pei’s modern proposal projects an image of solidity and transparency, which sharply contrasts with the baroque buildings around. generating great controversy but also  great admiration. But the Louvre Pyramid does not generate warm feelings. Simple as that: some people see it as something separate whilst others perceive it as an element of integration. That remains at the visitor discretion.

The base of the pyramid is obviously square, the inclination of its walls, as in the case of the Egyptian pyramids, is 51 degrees and each of them is made up of rhomboid or triangular frames of  21 mm laminated glass reinforced by a network of cables that avoid the pyramid from bending inwards by its own weight.

Light plays a key role in the Pyramid as Pei seeks to make the most of natural light to save energy in lighting and heating. In addition, light is used in an aestethic and funcional sense  so that visitors do not feel they are inside of, an underground facility. Natural light is complemented by LED, an environmentally-friendly technology with, efficient lighting LED emits green light points and achieves much more significant consumption savings than traditional lighting.  In addition, it does not contain mercury, it is easily recycled, it does not emit heat and its ultraviolet and infrared emissions are low. This lighting system reduces power consumption by  73% as well as the CO2 emissions of the exterior lighting of the Museum.

Besides being a functional entrance to the Museum and its regulation of the flow of visitors,  the Pyramid was built to provide all public services a Museum of this magnitude should. Through a staircase of helical shape equipped with a glass and stainless steel handrail,  visitors descend about 9 meters to the reception of the Grand Louvre, located under the “Napoleon lounge”. Several services have been installed on that place such as an information desk, restaurants, cloakrooms,  an auditorium and a museum boutique, to offer visitors the possibility of an optimum preparation for the tour. The centre of gravity of the Pyramid coincides with that of the three halls of the Museum: Richelieu at the north, Denon at the south and Sully at the east.

Surrounded by water, Pei does not forget the oriental touch and Feng shui.

ARCHITECT: Ieoh Ming Pei & Partners, Nueva York

ARCHITECTURE STUDIO: Ieoh Ming Pei & Partners, Nueva York

LOCAL ARCHITECTS: Georges Duval y Michael Macary.

PROJECT MANAGEMENT: Yann Weymouth, Washington.

LIGHTING PLANIFICATION: Claude y Danielle Engle, Washington.

ESTÁTIC: Sogelerg, Rungis, Serete, París.

CONTRATIST:Compagnie Francaise d’Entreprises Métalliques, París.
COORDINATION: Planitec, París.

LOCATION: courtyard of the Louvre Museum, Paris.

DATE: Project was approved in1984 and ended in 1989.


-height: 21.65 mt.

-length of the side of the base of the pyramid: 35,00 mt.

-angle of inclination: 51.7 degrees.

-Crystals: 675 rhombuses glass of 3.00 x 1.80 meters. Each of the rhombuses weighs 150.00 kgs. To this are added 118 triangles.

-frame: 6000.00 beams (between 58 and 90 mm) and 2100 knots

-supporting structure weight: 95 tons.

– pyramid total weight: 180 tons.

IMÁGENES: MI Moleskine Arquitectónico




Richard Rogers and a building to show the transparency and accessibility of the French judicial system: Court of Bordeaux

Richard Rogers attended the School of Architecture in London before graduating with a master’s degree from the Yale University School of Architecture in 1962.  At Yale he met Norman Foster with whom he worked in society for a while, before joining forces with Renzo Piano, and becoming  famous worldwide with the design of the Pompidou Center in Paris. He also won the prestigious Pritzker Prize in 2007.

Leading the Architecture Studio Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (formerly the Richard Rogers Partnership) Norman Foster won the international competition to design the new Tribunal of the historic city of Bordeaux in 1992.

The building was designed by seeking to create a positive perception of the accessibility of the French judicial system.  This was achieved by creating a transparent and open building.

The project’s requirements were complex, since among other things, required the complete separation of the public and judicial circulation. The public entrance to the building is via stairs that lead to the “Salle des Pas Perdus” (room of the lost steps) in the center of the building, where lawyers, their clients and the public meet.

The administrative offices are reached by bridges that pass through the Atrium: the plan is clear in the sense of ensuring different routes for the public and the judges.

Key elements of the design include the creation of public space and its integration with the existing urban landscape. With its use of irregular shapes and natural materials, the building integrates with success to its environment, including even a section of the medieval city wall.

As it is characteristic of Richard Rogers, the building emphasizes the control of energy expenditure with a very efficient use of sunlight.

The roof incorporates sun detection and ventilation systems. In addition, the podium and offices are built in concrete – a highly effective passive thermal control system-.



NAME:  Court of Bordeaux

ARCHITECT:  Richard Rogers

ARCHITECTURE STUDIO: Rogers, Stirk, Harbour & Partners

STRUCTURAL ENGINEERING: Ove Arup & Partners / OtH Sud-Ouest

SERVICES ENGINEERING : OtH Sud-Ouest / Ove Arup & Partners

LIGHTING CONSULTANT: Lighting Design Partnership

ACUSTIC CONSULTANT: Sound Research Laboratories

LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT: Dan Kiley / Edward Hutchison / Branch Associates

LOCATION: Bordeaux, Francia.

DATE: 1992-1998

CLIENT: Ministère de la Justice, France


IMAGES:  The red List   y  Roger Stirk Harbour + Partners





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