Aug '08 - Jun '10
I've never seen an architect (let alone a world famous one) lecture inside his or her own building. What a treat this was, the day before the California Academy of Sciences was to open to the public-- a few hundred students from CCA and UC Berkeley were invited to see Renzo speak in the 'piazza' of his newly completed building.
What follows are some excerpts of the lecture and perhaps the pictures will speak even more to what a magical experience this was. It was wonderful to see the architect so humbled within his own building (which is really the product of so many people and he reiterated that several times).
We got to wander around a very limited area before the lecture began:
I was sitting front row, about twelve feet away from Renzo. That didn't make it any easier to hear through his accent and all the echoing off the glass walls. In spite of what he said, I'm not convinced it would be a great place to hear a piano (a real one). What a charming guy though.
One of the most amazing moments was when he opened the roof of the piazza, all the gears screeching and revealing a beautiful gradient of light as they retracted. My favorite thing was watching Renzo's face--he was like a kid inside of a Christmas present.
some of the best quotes:
"I call this a Piano lesson."
"The places talk... the architecture should be good enough to listen... the voices are subtle"
"The sketch---this is mythology."
"A piazza is by definition empty. You don't have to design everything."
"At 10 o clock you are a builder, pragmatic. 11 o'clock, a poet... at 12 o'clock you are a humanist, at 1 o'clock an anthropologist."
"A good client is not necessarily obedient."
"If they are not irritating discussions [with the client] they are not discussions."
"You will never do something like this alone...We have a good builder (Did we pay the builder?)" *laughter*
"I have five or six wives in my office--we don't even talk" *gestures with both hands up in the air*
"You need obstination to keep the idea there. I call this sublime obstination."
"If you make a mistake it's there forever."
Question: Do you ever compromise aesthetics with a 'green' choice?
Renzo: "Don't do that."
"You can make things better by spending less money (but don't tell the client right away)"
Question: Can you talk about the beginning of your career.
Renzo: "I don't remember... It was last century." "Richard was the big one. We were bad boys looking like the Beatles... teaching at the AA in London, a mad place for mad people. Everyone starts in a different way, so good luck."
Question: What kind of vision do you have for architecture?
R: "Utopia is not a bad word. If you don't believe you can change the world you should change your job. Build good strong safe structures--it gives you dignity." "I hope this building will feed a generation..immense quarry of beauty and pleasure."
Question: Do you ever visit your old buildings?
R: "Up until [the building] is complete, it is yours... As an architect you never leave the building"
"I like to hide myself behind a corner and I watch faces."
We left enchanted (I have to say I was skeptical before, having seen some presentations last fall by the local architects). As a last gasp I tried running up a set of stairs when I thought no one was looking, halfway up only to hear a "Sir SIR! You can't go up there"....
Outside, the fog having rolled in, we wandered around the park and took a last look back at what seemed like a UFO...landing or taking off?