A new visible landmark in the skyline of downtown Manhattan.
By Jakob Harry Hybel
Italian-born Renzo Piano is one of most exceptional and iconoclastic architects from his generation. He has been involved in a series of much debated and high-profile projects including his Centre Pompidou in Paris and most recently The Shard in London. Piano is known for his distinct high-tech aesthetic and ceaseless exploration of structural complexity.
Born in 1937, into a family of builders and contractors, Piano's fascination with the interrelationship between the structural components of a construction was sparked from an early age. He graduated in 1964 from the School of Architecture at the technical university, Politecnico di Milano, where he subsequently taught for a period of time.
After working with Louis Kahn for a couple of years, Piano joined forces with British architect Richard Rogers in 1971 and designed what was to be a career-defining project for both of them, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. The project was vigorously discussed at the time of its construction due to its radical design strategy of exposing all technical functions on the outside. The public opinion has shifted since then, however, and today it is celebrated for its boldness and widely regarded as one of the city's most preeminent contemporary landmarks.
When Rogers left to set up his own practice in 1977, Piano continued to work with engineer and longtime collaborator Peter Rice, until he founded the Renzo Piano Building Workshop in 1981. The practice started small but now it employs 150 people in offices across the world in Paris, New York City as well as his hometown of Genoa, Italy.
Piano was never one to shy away from controversy and in 1991, just after the fall of the Berlin Wall, he was at the center of yet another polemic debate, this time on account of his masterplan for the new Potzdamer Platz in Berlin. The project was considered by critics as an expression of blatant Americanization and was severely criticized for its lack of regard to the history of the site.
Over the course of his career, Piano has received numerous decorations, among others the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture from RIBA in 1989, The Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1998, the Médaille d'Or from the UIA in 2002, and the Gold Medal from the AIA in 2008.
Visit the official website of Renzo Piano Building Workshop.
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