Renzo Piano: The Architect’s Studio

by | 30. Aug 2012

Exhibitions and Events

The Renzo Piano exhibition is the last in a series of four exhibitions focusing on some of the most innovative and influential architects practising today. The exhibitions,  conceived as “studio exhibitions”, provides an insight to the working processes and sources of inspiration of each architect.

Photo: Stefano Goldman

Renzo Piano founded the Renzo Piano Building Workshops as an international architecture academy where students and experienced architects work together in teams. The studios, located in Paris and Genoa, resemble Renaissance workshops in their combination of theory and practise. With focus on the studio in Genoa, Punta Nave the Louisiana exhibition tells the story of these workshops and their extraordinary way of working with ecology and technology.

Photo: Fregoso & BasalRPBW, Renzo Piano Building Workshop

Throughout his career, Piano has aimed for an architecture defined by humanistic concerns and technical sophistication. His projects are united by a Genius Loci, a sensitivity to the particularity and culture of the site, coupled with functional analysis and constructional daring. Though each project pushes the envelope of technology, it is always done with great consideration for local conditions.
Renzo Piano gained international fame in the late 1970’s as the architect who, with Richard Rogers, designed the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris (971-77)  that became the symbol of modern architecture. In 2000 Piano completed a renovation of the Centre where the only change made to the exterior, besides the sandblasting, was the installation of a weather-board canopy over the main entrance.

Photo: Gianni Berengo GardinRPBW, Renzo Piano Building Workshop

We had to make a structure out of pieces of cast metal. The entire French steel industry rose up in arms: it refused point-blank, saying that a structure like that wouldn’t stay up. But we were sure of our facts, and passed the order on to the German company Krupp. And so it was that the main structure of the Centre Pompidou was made in Germany, even if the girders had to be delivered at night, almost in secret. This was one case in which technique protected art. Our understanding of structures set free our capacity for expression.
/Renzo Piano

Renzo Piano now has an enormous amount of projects scattered around the world that range from private houses to industrial buildings, museums, airports, theaters, churches, bridges, master plans, boats and cars .  

When he was named  the 1998 Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize J. Carter Brown, Chairman of the Pritzker Jury,  said the following:

Renzo Piano’s command of technology is that of a true virtuoso; yet he never allows it to command him. Deeply imbued with a sense of materials and craftsman’s intuitive feel for what they can do, his architecture embodies a rare humanism. He has proven himself a master of light, and of a wide divergence of building types. Piano is a magician, rooted in the believable.

Photo: Alistair HunterRPBW, Renzo Piano Building Workshop

The roof of the exhibition spaces in the Menil Collection (1982 – 1986) museum in Texas is made up of repeating modular elements described as “leaves.” Each leaf is a very thin section of reinforced concrete integrated with a steel lattice girder. They function as roof, ventilation and light control efficiently.

Paradoxically, the Menil Collection with its great serenity, its calm, and its understatement, is far more “modern,” scientifically speaking, than Beaubourg. The technological appearance of Beaubourg is parody. The technology used for the Menil Collection is even more advanced (in its structures, materials, systems of climate control), but it is not flaunted.
/Renzo Piano, from his book titled “Logbook”

The Beyeler Foundation Museum ( 1992-97)  is situated among the trees in a park near Basel, Switzerland.  The structure is built around four main walls of the same length, oriented in a north-south direction and parallel to the boundary wall.  The walls are of different heights and one extends into the park and becomes a low wall guiding visitors to the entrance. The transparent, cantilevered roof extends beyond the perimeter defined by the walls.

Photo: arcspace

Photo: arcspace

NeMo is a building for the National Centre for Science and Technology, with all its interactive scientific and technological exhibitions. Its roof forms a square overlooking Amsterdam. The structure alludes to a ship: it does not pretend to be a piece of city, but belongs to the harbour; it does not stand, but floats above the entrance to the tunnel, supported by a structure of underwater pilings.

Photo: arcspaceThe NEMO (National Center for Science and Technology)Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The concept of the Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Center (1991-98) in New Caledonia is a genuine village composed of ten structures of different sizes and functions, the largest being as tall as a nine story building.

Photo: arcspace(New National Gallery, Berlin Renzo Piano exhibition)

Photo: John GollingsRPBW, Renzo Piano Building Workshop

The constructions are an expression of the harmonious relationship with the environment, that is typical of the local culture. They are curved structures resembling huts, built out of wooden joists and ribs; they are containers of an archaic appearance, whose interiors are equipped with all the possibilities offered by modern technology.
/Renzo Piano

The facades of  the 15 story Maison Herms building (1998 -01) in Tokyo are entirely made of 45×45 cm specially designed glass block, the result of industrial development.

Photo: arcspace

These materials are used to weave this “glass veil”, creating a continuous and luminous screen between the serenity of the inner spaces and the buzz of the city.

Photo: arcspace

A mobile sculpture by sculptor Susumu Shingu, overlooking this space from the entire height of the building, engages in a continuous play of light between the facade, the city and the sky.

© 2002 Renzo Piano Building Workshop and the Morgan Library

The London Bridge Tower, in the final design phase, is a high-rise, mixed use development in the central London borough of Southwark, by the river Thames. Located adjacent to London Bridge Station, it will be a modern solution to adding density to the city centre, taking advantage of one of London’s major public transport hubs.


I see the tower like a small vertical town for about seven thousand people to work in and enjoy, and for hundreds of thousands more to visit. This is why we have included shops, museums, offices, restaurants and residential spaces. The shape of the tower is generous at the bottom without arrogantly touching the ground, and narrow at the top, disappearing in the air like a 16th century pinnacle or the mast top of a very tall ship.
/Renzo Piano

Richard Rogers, Piano’s former partner, recently said that the London Bridge Tower is the best design for a building he has ever seen and that it has the potential to become the greatest piece of modern architecture in London.