1843 Magazine is the The Economist’s more relaxed side, hence the tagline “The Economist Unwinds” when you visit the site (see link below). For trivia buffs, this number corresponds to the year of the publication’s founding. My subscription through graduate school proved beyond value, as I tore out and saved articles on most any topic relevant to papers I needed to write (this was, after all, many years before the emergence of the Internet and the ability to do the same thing purely online).
The article highlights the extraordinary impact the UK has had on modern corporate architecture, posing the question: Why? Sometimes it’s a matter of being born and growing up in the right place at the right time.
In 1978 the future arrived in Norwich. It came in the form of a museum designed by Norman Foster. The Sainsbury Centre (above) was built to house the supermarket dynasty’s art collection, and was like no other museum in Britain. 150m long and clad in shiny steel, its western and eastern fronts boasted huge glass windows, which were surrounded by a steel frame that looked more like the internal parts of a rocket than ornamentation for a façade.
Forty years later, the Sainsbury Centre is hosting “Superstructures”, a thorough (and thoroughly enjoyable) new exhibition that explores the work of Foster and contemporaries like Richard Rogers, Nicholas Grimshaw and Michael and Patty Hopkins. Together they formed a cohort whose style came to be known as “high-tech”, owing to their liberal use of ideas and techniques from science and industry. Thanks to its futuristic exuberance and grandeur, “high-tech” became the dominant style for corporate headquarters and public buildings. Foster remains its leading exponent. His office for Apple, which opened in 2017, comes in the form of a giant white ring – a space station that fell to Earth.
The exhibition is less interested, however, in recent projects. Beginning with a model of the Sainsbury Centre itself, it explores the development of “high-tech” through drawings and models of famous buildings like the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Eurostar terminal at Waterloo station in London, the latter represented by a series of expressive wooden models of the building’s stainless-steel exoskeleton. …. The exhibition prompts one central question: how is it that a group of architects from Britain – a country often cast as an architectural backwater – came to rule the world? […]