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High Tech: an architectural style guide

High Tech

Influenced by engineering and new technology, High Tech is a style that celebrates the display of a building’s construction and services.

Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts, University of East Anglia, Norwich, 1978 (Foster Associates) John Donat / RIBA Collections

High Tech was a development of British Modernist architecture from the late 1960s and was a concept, rather than a style. Based on engineering and construction and other aspects such as the manipulation of space, High Tech was marked by a preference for lightweight materials and sheer surfaces, a readiness to adopt new techniques from engineering and other technologies, and the celebratory display of a building’s construction and services.

Norman Foster and Richard Rogers were the key architects who brought about these changes and implemented them from the 1970s. High Tech buildings are characterised by exposed structures (usually of steel and or other metals), exposed services (pipes and air ducts etc.), a smooth, impervious skin (often of glass) and a flexibility to create internal service zones, rather than rooms or sequences of rooms.

What to look for in a High Tech building:

  1. Steel and glass
  2. Flexible interiors
  3. Expressed construction
  4. Colour used for pipework and services
  5. Lightweight materials

Article by Suzanne Waters
British Architectural Library, RIBA

Channel 4 headquarters, Horseferry Road, London, 1994 (Richard Rogers Partnership) Janet Hall / RIBA Collections
Hopkins' House, Downshire Hill, Hampstead, London, 1975 (Michael Hopkins and Partners) Joe Low / RIBA Collections
Pompidou Centre, Paris, 1977 (Piano and Rogers) Emmanuel Thirard / RIBA Collections

Find out more

Explore more images of High Tech architecture from the RIBA Collections.

View, download, purchase and licence these images on RIBApix

1. Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts, University of East Anglia, Norwich, 1978 (Foster Associates), John Donat / RIBA Collections RIBA15315

2. Channel 4 headquarters, Horseferry Road, London, 1994 (Richard Rogers Partnership) Janet Hall / RIBA Collections RIBA6013

3. Hopkins' House, Downshire Hill, Hampstead, London: the studio on the upper level, 1975 (Michael Hopkins and Partners), Joe Low / RIBA Collections RIBA9884

4. Pompidou Centre (Centre National d'Art et de Culture Georges-Pompidou), Paris (Piano and Rogers), Emmanuel Thirard / RIBA Collections RIBA3782

All these images are part of the RIBA Library and Collections. Admission is free, and everyone is welcome to visit.

Discover and purchase more images at RIBApix, or contact us if you have any questions about architecture.

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