High-Tech for High-Tech: On the Potential of Digital Fabrication for the Repair of Architectural Innovation of the 1980s

Doctoral Candidate: Matthias Brenner
Co-Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Benjamin Dillenburger, Digital Building Technologies, ETH Zurich

Due to their relatively young age, buildings of the 1980s are rarely considered objects worth preserving and listed as monuments. Within the architectural heritage of this time, buildings featuring innovative façade and load-bearing constructions play a particularly important role besides the prominent structures of postmodernism and the incipient deconstructivism. These buildings are commonly referred to as “high-tech architecture” as their conceptual approach is based on the use of the latest technology of their time.

The use of industrially manufactured materials and components, complex facade elements, and heating and ventilation technology, which are now often out of date, pose new challenges for the preservation of historical monuments. Considering that technical innovations become obsolete more quickly in comparison to the overall lifespan of a building and the resulting replacement, the question of a holistic and appropriate approach to persevering high-tech architecture arises. To understand the special technical solutions, and to be able to further develop, maintain or repair such objects, research in both their design and construction appears necessary.

The dissertation project examines architectural innovations of the 1980s and the use of digital manufacturing techniques for their repair and maintenance. Monument theory questions regarding authenticity and appropriateness as well as constructive challenges of maintaining and implementing new repair techniques are also discussed.