Conference: September 14–16, 2023, ETH Zurich
Contact: Matthias Brenner
E-Mail: high-tech@arch.ethz.ch

A conference collaboratively organized by the Professorship for Construction Heritage and Preservation, ETH Zurich (Prof. Dr. Silke Langenberg) and the Professorship for Heritage Conservation and Architectural History, Bauhaus University Weimar (Prof. Dr. Hans-Rudolf Meier).
In cooperation with the Swiss Heritage Society and docomomo international. Supported by the German Wüstenrot Stiftung.

The “Call for Papers” has ended. The selection of the contributions is currently being finalized and will be communicated shortly.

Call for Papers

The recent conference Heritage Postmodernism. Preservation of an “Unfinished” Epoch in Weimar has not only facilitated the discussion on the preservation of the architectural heritage of postmodern architecture but also initiated a debate on High-Tech Architecture – a movement that emerged around the same time with postmodernism, demonstrating the need for further exploration of this topic. This conference will provide a platform for an in-depth discussion on the forthcoming theoretical and practical challenges associated with the preservation of the buildings of this movement.

We believe that it is necessary to reassess the buildings associated with High-Tech Architecture from the perspective of preservation. In addition to the more obvious postmodern building stock, buildings that are characterized by innovative facades and supporting structures play a particularly important role in dealing with the construction heritage of the 1980s. Collectively referred to as “High-Tech Architecture”, the design concepts of these objects aim at using and displaying advanced technology. The rapid obsolescence of technical innovations compared to the average lifespan of a High-Tech building results in the complete replacement of components instead of their repair. This raises the question of an appropriate conservation approach to High-Tech Architecture.

Why is it necessary to initiate a discussion about the listing of these relatively young buildings now? Countless examples of post-war, but now also post-modern architecture show that waiting too long and postponing their listing results in major losses of original building substance. In the case of High-Tech Architecture, novel and experimental technological features lead to even shorter renewal cycles; despite the machine aesthetics of the facades which make some objects appear quite young. The current discussion regarding the preservation of one of the most renowned objects, the Center Georges Pompidou in Paris, offers an insight into the challenges of preserving High-Tech Architecture: The art museum was already closed in 1997 for renovation work. Only after 20 years, this iconic building is expected to close again for several years for renovations starting in 2024.

The conference focuses on High-Tech Architecture of the 1970s to the 1990s as heritage, aiming to create an architectural-historical basis for further research on their preservation. This offers the opportunity to discuss the examples that have already been listed as monuments, diverse approaches to their preservation, and further construction efforts. In addition to preserving their intangible heritage, the conference will provide a platform to discuss the diverging concepts of High-Tech Architecture.

Questions relevant to the investigation of this topic
– How can the concept of High-Tech Architecture be grasped and analyzed?
– What are the specific characteristics of High-Tech Architecture within the international context and the context of German-speaking countries? Are regionally and supra-regionally different focal points and developments recognizable?
– What challenges do we face in surveying and evaluating these objects
– How do we preserve the elusive character of “innovation”? What role do technologically innovative constructions play?
– What is the perception of this architecture in public (general vs. specialist public)?
– How future-proof are high-tech objects?

Possible themes
– Current research on High-Tech Architecture as architectural history
– High-Tech as a driver of innovation in composition, design, and architecture
– Construction innovations of the 1970s to 90s: between appearance and function
– Preservation and further construction of High-Tech objects
– High-Tech Architecture and its teaching (as a topic at universities)
– Conservation, restoration, repair, or replacement of outdated building technologies?
– High-Tech Architecture as an intervention in a historical context  
– Challenges and opportunities associated with high-tech constructions

In addition to the presentations, a poster session is also planned for the conference. Ongoing dissertations and research projects can be presented on posters (DIN A0).
A conference proceeding with all publications is planned.

The conference languages are English and German.