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Eco-Tech: Sustainable Architecture and High Technology

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BOOKS: by Catherine Slessor with photographs by John Linden. Thames & Hudson, 1997. 192pp. £29.95

Eco-Tech is a compilation of better known High-Tech buildings of the '90s from around western Europe, writes Barrie Evans. Of the 40 projects by 17 architects, half come from the old firm of Foster-Rogers-Piano-Grimshaw. They include Duisburg, Channel 4, the Cy Twombly Gallery at Houston, and Waterloo International Terminal.

Catherine Slessor briefly outlines six themes for grouping the projects: structural expression, sculpting with light, energy matters, urban responses, making connections (transport buildings, not construction) and civic symbolism. Not surprisingly, since the author is deputy editor of The Architectural Review, projects get an ar-type treatment. One-to-three spreads for each project with 500 words of broad-brush text, excellent photographs and clear drawings, though not necessarily chosen to tell a particular story. It is a tasty picture book.

There is a critical job still to be done, looking at the environmental and ecological aspects of the work of Thomas Herzog, Piano and the rest. In this book the 'eco' does not extend far beyond the title. There is a problem Slessor acknowledges early on, that ecological aspects of buildings are not necessarily discernible on the building surface. So a book focused on presentation rather than criticism is inevitably limited in what it reveals.

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