Superstructures: The new architecture 1960-1990

Pavitt, Jane [Curator] and Thomas, Abraham [Curator] (2018) Superstructures: The new architecture 1960-1990. Superstructures: The New Architecture 1960-1990. .


This exhibition was commissioned (in 2016) by the Sainsbury Centre (SCVA) to mark the 40th anniversary of the building, designed by Norman Foster. It was the first critical reassessment of the form of late modern architecture and design known as ‘High Tech’. Containing c.150 exhibits, it explored the making of the SCVA itself, as a key to understanding this approach to architecture and engineering; the creative, technical and visionary precedents for modern High Tech, with historical exhibits covering over 150 years of engineering and design; and a typology of late modern architecture from museums and buildings for industry, to transport structures, corporate, retail and domestic architecture. Research questions included: how did High Tech architecture advance new paradigms of design and use for key building types; what historical conditions informed their development; and how can objects and documentary evidence be used to convey this to audiences through the medium of exhibition? The project re-evaluated the contested term ‘High Tech’, which is rejected by its architects but has an established yet relatively unexamined place in architectural histories. Exhibits were borrowed from the V&A, RIBA, Canadian Centre for Architecture, and Centre Pompidou; architectural practices and private collections. As well as models and drawings (some shown for the first time), Pavitt sourced original technical components, photography, film and furniture. The final selection of High Tech works was the most comprehensive ever exhibited together. The exhibition was reviewed extensively in the mainstream and specialist press.

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