From a historical perspective, visiting a significant work of architecture only amounts to a fractional part of what it takes to understand its importance. Context is crucial; every project responds to the society around it as much as it does the site that it inhabits, and it represents a synthesis of precedents and a point of inspiration for works that follow. As recently featured in Metropolis Magazine, these dynamics take center stage in a new exhibition staged in Norman Foster’s seminal Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, a contemporary landmark built in 1978 on the campus of the University in East Anglia in Norwich, England. Entitled Superstructures: The New Architecture: 1960–1990, the exhibit explores the central trends in post-war 20th-century building design, highlighting the historical context of the Sainsbury Center itself on the occasion of the museum building’s 40th anniversary.
Born in 1935 and still producing impressive work today, Norman Foster’s career includes the period showcased in the exhibit in the same way that his SCVA building encloses it under the building’s 150-meter clear span. Containing a three-meter-long model of SVCA, the exhibit (curated by Abraham Thomas and Jane Pavitt) surveys the so-called High Tech era of contemporary architecture with models and representation of works by many of Foster’s contemporaries, including Richard Rogers, Renzo Piano, Michael and Patty Hopkins, Nicholas Grimshaw, Ernö Goldfinger, The Metabolists, and Félix Candela.
With the connection between technology and architecture as relevant today as it has ever been, the Superstructures exhibit offers insight into the historical context of buildings well outside its nominal date range—from the early glass and iron structures by Joseph Paxton to the provocative digitally-designed forms of today.
The exhibit is currently on display and will run through September 2. If you can’t make it to Norwich, see Shumi Bose’s recent story in Metropolis Magazine for a full report and analysis on Superstructures: The New Architecture: 1960–1990.