Renzo Piano

Renzo Piano, born September 14, 1937 in Genoa, is an Italian architect and senator for life of the Italian Republic since August 30, 2013. He is best known for winning, at age 33, the competition for the Pompidou Center in Paris, which he built with Richard Rogers. He received the Pritzker Prize, the highest award in architecture, in 1998.

Renzo Piano
Renzo Piano


Piano grew up in a family of building contractors. He owes his passion for architecture to his father.

Renzo Piano studied at the University of Florence from 1962 to 1964 and graduated from Milan Polytechnic in 1964. From 1965 to 1968 he worked there as a lecturer. The support of his father and brother enabled him to start researching materials and technologies immediately after graduation. On study trips to Great Britain and the USA, he met Louis I. Kahn, among others. Piano interned at Kahn's renowned architectural firm in Philadelphia.

Through his teaching at the Polytechnic and the Architectural Association School in London, Renzo Piano came into closer contact with Richard Rogers. Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers founded a joint office in Paris after winning the competition for the Centre Pompidou in Paris (1971-1977). The precursor to the Centre Pompidou was the B & B Italia office building, completed in 1973.

In 1977, Renzo Piano founded a joint office with engineer Peter Rice called Piano & Rice. They ran the office until Rice's death in 1993, producing works such as the Neighborhood Laboratory for Urban Renewal in Otranto (1979) and the Menil Collection Museum in Houston, Texas (1981-1986). Renzo Piano learned a lot from his good friend Peter Rice. In the early 1980s, the studio transformed into a Building Workshop with offices in Paris and Genoa. The new name was intended above all to emphasize the teamwork character of the joint work.

In Berlin, Piano was entrusted, among other things, with the development of part of Potsdamer Platz and also ran an office there for a time together with Matthias Kohlbecker. In addition, Renzo Piano was involved in the planning of major projects such as the terminals of Kansai International Airport in Osaka, Japan, and the redesign of the Porto Antico (Old Port) in his hometown of Genoa.

Piano gained his reputation as a museum architect with projects such as the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas; the Fondation Beyeler in Riehen, near Basel; the Tjibaou Cultural Center in Nouméa on the South Sea island of New Caledonia; the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, Texas; and the Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, completed in 2005. He also designed two major auditoriums in Italy: the Auditorium Niccolò Paganini in Parma and the Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome.

His more recent projects include The Shard, Europe's tallest skyscraper at 310 meters, which opened on July 6, 2012, and several commissions in New York City, including the New York Times Building and the Pierpont Morgan Library expansion.

He runs a studio each in Genoa and Paris, united under the name "Renzo Piano Building Workshop" (RPBW). In the RPBW, architects, engineers and other specialists work together, some of them for years.

Renzo Piano is considered a master of building technology. By constructing numerous buildings around the globe with a wide variety of structures and building materials, he demonstrates his skills in the field of building technology. In all his projects, technology serves to enliven the light, respect the environment and allow integration with nature. Piano stands out for works in which the innovative and constructive techniques are only the tools to create comfortable, solid and ecological buildings. Piano is considered very diverse in terms of the styles of his works. The function and meaning of the buildings are crucial to the design.

On August 30, 2013, Renzo Piano was appointed Senator for life by the President of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano.

Magda Arduino was Renzo Piano's first wife and companion in his long development. With her Renzo Piano has three children: Carlo, Matteo and Lia. Since 1992 Renzo Piano has been married to the architect Emilia Rossato (Milly).


An architect in constant renewal

The first moments of Renzo Piano's career were marked by his collaboration with Richard Rogers, their proximity to the theories and aesthetics developed by the Archigram group, and a personal interest in the work of Jean Prouvé. This largely explains the affirmation of the technical elements of the B&B offices (Novedrate, Italy, 1971-1973) and especially the Centre Pompidou (1971-1977), whose competition was refereed by Jean Prouvé himself. This tendency is regularly found in the rest of his work with the Kansai airport in Japan (1994) or with the New York Times tower (2008). Other buildings, such as the Jean-Marie Tjibaou Center in Nouméa and the Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, include numerous details of the same order. Each of these buildings is presented as a giant mechanic of which one perceives the mode of construction; the constructive elements, often out of metal, are aesthetically staged there; the building is largely managed by sensors which open or close the shutters, etc; the mechanisms of the elevators and escalators are visible... All these characteristics are often compared to the high tech movement.

While Richard Rogers continued in this aesthetic vein with great consistency, Renzo Piano's work is marked by a deep concern for integration into the context. This leads him to adapt the forms of his buildings to the environment in which they are located.

Thus, a few years after the Pompidou Center, he designed the Menil Collection, a museum of modern and contemporary art located in Houston, Texas (1986). Attentive to the vernacular architecture of American suburban neighborhoods, he completely changed his style to clad this museum with cypress planks attached to a metal frame. While the Pompidou Center stood as a monument in Paris, the Menil Collection adapts to the scale of the surrounding city.

This adaptation to the context will be found in many projects:

  • The Tjibaou Cultural Center in Nouméa taking the form of a Kanak village,
  • The NEMO science museum in the port of Amsterdam,
  • The Fondation Beyeler, whose facing stone takes on the red hues of many historical buildings in the city of Basel (even though it comes from the other side of the world),
  • The Bon Volcano shopping center in Nola near Naples that takes the shape of Vesuvius,
  • An office tower in Sydney that is meant to be an homage to the city's opera house by taking its organic shapes and white color inspired by ships' sails,
  • The Paul Klee Center in Bern whose undulations recall those of the surrounding hills while the sinuous line of the facade is a tribute to the aesthetic theories of Paul Klee (painter and professor at the Bauhaus),
  • The extension of the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, whose rectilinear and white aesthetic echoes the characteristic style of the adjacent building by Richard Meier.

This questioning of the issues of the building and the context generates a perpetual renewal of forms, textures and colors: colored pipes of the Pompidou center (in Paris), cypress planks of the Menil collection, ochre-red terracotta elements of the IRCAM or the cité internationale de Lyon, raw concrete of the Bari stadium, metal panels of the Kansai airport, wooden slats of the Jean-Marie-Tjibaou center, oxidized copper (green) in the Amsterdam museum or in the church of Padre Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo, ochre-yellow terracotta elements of the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin, red stone of the Beyeler foundation, lead roofing of the Parco della Musica in Rome, whiteness of the buildings in Sydney or New York, glass panels of the Cologne department store, etc.

The architect's latest projects seem to break with this permanent desire for renewal and diversity. The organic forms often used in the past are abandoned in favor of more classical rectilinear forms; most of the buildings are white. This can be explained by the fact that Piano designed many extensions to older buildings: the LACMA in Los Angeles, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Morgan Library in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, etc. Despite this aesthetic uniformity, the architecture loses nothing in the quality of the materials, the design of the details, the light.

The architect specializing in museums

Museums are an important part of his work: Renzo Piano's agency has built in Amsterdam, Atlanta, Basel, Bern, Chicago, Dallas, Genoa, Houston (2 museums), Los Angeles, Lyon, Nouméa, Paris (2 museums), San Francisco, and Turin. In this field, he has shown a perpetual concern for innovation, both aesthetically and technically.

Thus, the Pompidou Center (Paris, 1977, designed with Richard Rogers) marks the desire to profoundly renew the image of such a cultural facility in order to attract a large public. The museography is particular: initially, the vast exhibition areas were divided by picture rails placed freely in the space, without imposing a path for visitors (this arrangement proved to be inefficient and was subsequently modified). Light is partially provided by glass façades but mostly by artificial lighting, solutions often rejected by the architect in his later career.

With the Menil Collection (Houston, 1982-1986), Renzo Piano laid the foundations for a new vision of the museum that he would later develop from the Fondation Beyeler in Basel to the recent extension of the Art Institute of Chicago. From then on, he opted for a very sober aesthetic (rectangular plan, use of wood or stone for the façade, etc.) while developing an exceptional know-how in terms of zenithal light. From now on, each museum designed by Renzo Piano will develop a new system of sheds and filters to filter the light. This architectural sobriety, combined with the sophistication of the lighting, has one main goal: to highlight the works on display.

The Jean-Marie Tjibaou Center in Nouméa (New Caledonia, 1997), which can be likened to a museum, although it has a broader scope, is an exception in this context. The historical, political and landscape context imposed it. The aim was to pay tribute to Kanak culture and to preserve the natural site. The museum is thus conceived as a traditional village with a series of houses with a characteristic silhouette, aligned along a gallery road. The shells respect the scale of the surrounding vegetation. Through its relationship with the landscape and the choice of materials, this museum has become an icon of green architecture. Beyond the exterior appearance, this ecological character is also due to its natural air conditioning system obtained thanks to the shape of each of the hulls.

  • 2019 (plan): Parkapartments am Belvedere, residential building and hotel in Vienna
  • 2018: San Giorgio Bridge Genoa
  • 2017 (plan): FLOAT, office building in the Media Harbor Düsseldorf, project (former project name: Casa stupenda)
  • 2017: New Palace of Justice Paris
  • 2016: Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, Athens, Greece
  • 2015: Parliament House (Malta), seat of the Maltese parliament
  • 2014: Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, Massachusetts)
  • 2013: Pjazza Teatru Rjal, open-air stage in the remains of the former Royal Opera House in Valletta
  • 2013: MUSE - Museo delle Scienze, Museum of Science, Trento, in the new residential and commercial district of Le Albere, opened July 27
  • 2012-2016: Oscar Academy on the grounds of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
  • 2012: concert hall in L'Aquila, Auditorium del parco
  • 2012: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, New building
  • 2012: Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo
  • 2011-2013: City Gate (Valletta), redesign of the city gates of the Maltese capital Valletta.
  • 2012: The Shard (tallest skyscraper in Europe at the time of completion, south of London Bridge)
  • 2009: Stadio San Nicola, soccer stadium of Bari
  • 2008: Broad Contemporary Art Museum
  • 2005-2008: California Academy of Sciences San Francisco
  • 2004: Porto di Genova Masterplan, Genova
  • 2004: Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City
  • 2002: Columbia University Expansion Masterplan, New York City
  • 2002: Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli, Turin
  • 2001: St. Giles Court, London
  • 2001: La Rocca Winery, Gavorrano, Grosseto
  • 2000: New York Times Tower, New York City
  • 2000-2006: Pierpont Morgan Library, New York City
  • 2000-2004: EMI Music France Headquarters, Paris
  • 2000-2002: Lingotto Agnelli Art Gallery, Torino,
  • 2000-2001: La Bolla, on the occasion of the G8 Summit 2001, Genova,
  • 1999-2005: Paul Klee Center, Bern
  • 1999-2005: Woodruff Arts Center, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia
  • 1999-2005: Weltstadthaus, Cologne
  • 1999-2003: Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, Texas
  • 1999: Chicago Art Institute Expansion, Chicago, Illinois
  • 1998-2004: Il Sole 24 Ore Headquarters, Milan, Italy
  • 1998-2002: Lingotto Engineering School, Torino
  • 1998-2002: Lingotto Movie Theater, Torino
  • 1998-2001: Maison Hermes, Tokyo
  • 1997-2001: Auditorium Niccolò Paganini, Parma
  • 1997-2000: KPN Telecom Office Tower, Rotterdam
  • 1996-2000: Centre Pompidou Renovation, Paris
  • 1996-2000: Aurora Place, Sydney
  • 1996-1998: Ferrari Wind Tunnel, Maranello, Modena
  • 1994-2002: Auditorium Parco della Musica, Roma
  • 1993-1998: Mercedes Benz Design Center, Sindelfingen near Stuttgart, Germany
  • 1993-1997: debis-Haus in the Daimler Quarter, Berlin
  • 1992-2000: Potsdamer Platz, master plan for reconstruction (Quartier Daimler), Berlin
  • 1992-1997: NEMO National Science and Research Center, Amsterdam
  • 1992-1996: Atelier Brancusi Reconstruction, Paris
  • 1992-1995: Cy Twombly Gallery, Houston, Texas
  • 1991-2004: San Pio da Pietrelcina, San Giovanni Rotondo, Foggia, Puglia
  • 1991-2001: Banca Popolare di Lodi Headquarters, Lodi
  • 1991-1998: Tjibaou Cultural Center, Nouméa, New Caledonia
  • 1991-1997: Fondation Beyeler, Riehen near Basel
  • 1989-1996: Ushibuka Bridge, Ushibuka, Kumamoto
  • 1989-1991: Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Punta Nave, Genova
  • 1988-1994: Kansai International Airport Terminal, Osaka
  • 1988-1990: IRCAM extension, Paris
  • 1988-1990: Thomson Optronics Factory, Saint Quentin-en-Yvelines
  • 1987-1991: Apartments Rue de Meaux, Paris
  • 1987-1990: Bercy 2 Shopping Center, Paris
  • 1987-1989: Stadio San Nicola for the Football World Cup 1990, Bari
  • 1985-1996: Cité International, Lyon
  • 1985-1992: Porto Antico, Genova
  • 1985-1992: Credito Industriale Sardo Headquarters, Cagliari
  • 1985-1987: Institute for Research into Light Metals, Novara
  • 1984-1985: Lowara Company Offices, Montecchio Maggiore, Vicenza
  • 1983-1993: Lingotto factory conversion, Torino,
  • 1991: Regal Princess, cruise ship (design)
  • 1990: Crown Princess, cruise ship (design)
  • 1983-1991: Subway Stations, Genova
  • 1983-1986: IBM Travelling Pavilion, Europe
  • 1983-1984: PROMETEO Musical Space, Venezia/Milano
  • 1981-1987: Menil Collection, Houston, Texas
  • 1978-1982: Casa El Rigo Evolutive, Corciano, Perugia
  • 1971-1977: Centre Pompidou, Paris (in collaboration with Richard Rogers)
  • 1971-1973: B&B Italia Offices, Novedrate, Como
  • 1970-1974: Casa Luci-Giannotti-Simi-Pepe, Cusago, Milan

Prizes, awards and honors

Renzo Piano belongs to the world's elite of architects. Between 1978 and 2000 he received over 30 architectural awards. In 2006, Time magazine listed him as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

  • 1989: Royal Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects
  • 1989: Honorary membership of the Association of German Architects (BDA)
  • 1990: Kyoto Prize
  • 1993: Membership of the Academy of Arts (Berlin)
  • 1993: Membership of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • 1995: Praemium Imperiale
  • 1998: Pritzker Prize
  • 2001: Wexner Prize
  • 2005: Kythera Prize
  • 2008: Sonning Prize
  • 2008: Gold Medal of the American Institute of Architects
  • 2013: elected full member (NA) of the National Academy of Design
  • 2013: appointment as a life senator
  • 2016: naming of an asteroid after him: (216241) Renzopiano


  • My Architecture Logbook. Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ostfildern-Ruit 1997, ISBN 978-3-7757-0670-4.
  • Architectures of Life, Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ostfildern-Ruit 2000, ISBN 978-3-7757-0960-6.
  • Museum Architecture. Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ostfildern-Ruit 2007, ISBN 978-3-7757-2040-3.


  • Werner Blaser: Renzo Piano Workshop. Museum Beyeler, Wabern-Bern 1998.


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