Sainsbury Centre celebrates anniversary with show on tech-inspired architecture

The Sainsbury Centre’s latest exhibition focuses on architecture’s fascination with technology
The Sainsbury Centre’s latest exhibition focuses on architecture’s fascination with technology and industrial production, as well as celebrating the venue’s 40th anniversary
(Image credit: press)

For the architecture buffs among us, the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich is pretty iconic. This was the first ever public building designed by Norman Foster, and one of the key architecture landmarks of the second half of the 20th century that heralded the era of the ‘High Tech’ movement. A new wave of British architects experimenting with new technologies, materials, forms and structures soon followed.

Marking its 40th anniversary, the Centre is now launching its celebratory show SUPERSTRUCTURES: The New Architecture 1960-90, raising the glass to the genre and exploring ‘architecture’s fascination with technology in the post-war decades’. The exhibition will showcase the architects who challenged conventions with their experimentation and interest in engineering and industrial production.

Visitors can browse through drawings, sketches, furniture, film, photography and models of relevant buildings, such as the Reliance Controls Factory by Team 4 (Norman Foster, Wendy Cheesman, Georgie Wolton and Richard Rogers), the Pompidou Centre by Rogers and Renzo Piano, Rogers’ Lloyd’s of London Building, Waterloo International Rail Station by Nicholas Grimshaw and the Hopkins House by Michael and Patty Hopkins. These sit side-by-side with a brand new three-metre-long model of the Sainsbury Centre itself, to be explored and admired.

Theory and unbuilt experimentation surrounding the era is not ignored. ‘The exhibition will explore the seminal influence of figures such as Buckminster Fuller, Jean Prouvé, Charles and Ray Eames and Cedric Price’, explain the organisers, adding that the show also delves into how techniques were adapted from the automotive, nautical, aerospace and information industries and introduced into the world of building and architecture.

The exhibition is accompanied by a specially published book, which is available on site.

The Sainsbury Centre's Crescent Wing by Foster

The Sainsbury Centre's Crescent Wing by Foster + Partners. 

(Image credit: Richard Davies)

The Century Tower in Japan by Foster

The Century Tower in Japan 

(Image credit: Foster + Partners, Saturo Mishima)

Architectural Model Of The International Terminal

30 Architectural Model Of The International Terminal Waterloo Grimshaw

(Image credit: Grimshaw)

The Sainsbury Centre in construction

The Sainsbury Centre in construction, 1975-1978. 

(Image credit: Alan Howard)

Sainsbury Centre For Visual Arts C Foster

The Sainsbury Centre For Visual Arts in Norwich

(Image credit: Ken Kirkwood)

East Mast with Gridline Beam and Outriggers

'East Mast with Gridline Beam and Outriggers' by Ben Johnson,1986. 

(Image credit: Ben Johnson)


’SUPERSTRUCTURES: The New Architecture 1960-90’ is on show until the 2 September 2018. For more information visit the Sainsbury Centre website

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).