On the theme of of inspiring videos, I submit a Charlie Rose interview of Renzo Piano, whose Chicago Art Institute addition I wrote about in my first post. Piano insists that an architect is above all a BUILDER (his architecture firm is called “Renzo Piano Building Workshop”), and that at its core, architecture is making shelter.
But at the same time he says architects are also POETS, and HUMANISTS. He claims that architecture is an art of building emotions, especially emotions about beauty. Beauty, he claims, is one of the few human emotions that can compete with true power (money, might, destruction, etc.). Fantasy is good, he claims, but like marmalade, it is best in small doses, and when spread on great piece of bread.
The biggest lesson he learned from his early career, especially the ground-breaking design for the Pompidou Museum in Paris, is a certain amount of stubbornness, to stand behind one’s ideas, and rebelliousness, to challenge conventions, the status quo, and the obvious. Where cultural institutions used to be monumental fortresses, he sought to create open, inviting, temples of light that aroused curiosity for a broad public.
He talks a great deal about sustainability, the single greatest challenge, and opportunity, for architects in the 21st-century. Sustainability in architecture is about love for nature, is making buildings that talk to, and are in tune with nature, rather than fight it. The core idea for his SF Academy of Sciences museum, for example, is that the earth is fragile. The building opens up at night, adjusts itself to the weather and seasons. He says the goal of his practice is to develop an “aesthetic of sustainability,” where the connection with nature is beautiful. He insists we must accept the possibility of making things with less. His love for sailing has taught him many lessons, especially about being in tune with nature, being able to adjust one’s surrounds to interact more efficiently with nature.
If you have not already looked at Renzo Piano’s work in depth, spend some time this summer doing so. It’s an amazing body of work, no matter what your taste in architecture. He has done MANY museums, so his work is useful for our fall museum project. Be sure to study how he works from first sketch, through planning phases, attention to important construction details, light…