Piano, Renzo

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Piano, Renzo

Renzo Piano (rĕnt´sō pyä´nō), 1937–, Italian architect, b. Genoa. Piano attended architecture school at Milan Polytechnic, graduating in 1964. He worked with architects Louis I. Kahn and Z. S. Makowsky from 1965 to 1970. Piano came to worldwide attention when he and Richard Rogers designed the Pompidou Centre (1977), Paris. The Beaubourg, as it is popularly known, is an "urban machine" that reveals its engineering basis by having brightly colored pipes, escalators, and other service elements on the outside of the structure. The prolific Piano has been lauded for responding to the needs of each building site rather than cleaving to a single architectural style and has also been praised for his command of engineering technology.

Piano's other buildings include the Menil Museum, Houston (1981–86), known particularly for the leaflike ferroconcrete louvers that filter the light from its transparent roof; the vast Kansai Air Terminal, Osaka (1994); the long, low, and elegantly simple Beyeler Foundation museum, Riehen, Switzerland (1997); and the Tjibaou Cultural Center, Nouméa, New Caledonia (1998), featuring wooden staves reminiscent of local Kanak huts. His 21st-century projects include the complex of concert halls that make up the Parco della Musica, Rome, Italy (2002); the naturally illuminated Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, Tex. (2003); the innovative Padre Pio Church, San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy (2004); the undulating Paul Klee Center, Bern, Switzerland (2005); the addition to the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York City (2006); the sharp-edged 52-story New York Times Building, also in Manhattan (2007); the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, an addition to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2008); the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco (2008), capped by an earth-covered roof with mounds of plants and dozens of round skylights; the glass-roofed modern wing of the Art Institute of Chicago (2009); the Poor Clares convent and visitors' center, Ronchamp, France (2011), open to light and nature but half-buried and skillfully hidden from Le Corbusier's nearby masterpiece, the hilltop chapel of Notre Dame du Haut (1955); and the pyramidal Shard skyscraper, London (2012). Piano was awarded the Pritzker Prize in 1998.

See his On Tour with Renzo Piano (2004); P. Buchanan, Renzo Piano Building Workshop (4 vol., 1999–2003); studies by A. Cuito, ed. (1989), P. Jodidio (2005), F. Irace (2007), and V. Newhouse (2007).

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