Why is Renzo Piano a great architect?


I know that this question may sound irrelevant for some people, but I started to research about Piano’s work and I read a lot of comment which criticized Piano’s building negatively such as saying that his buildings were ugly. So that makes me wonder if people think that way about Piano’s work. Why is Renzo Piano considered one of the greatest contemporary architects? Please, give me an answer that can explain his work, and reasons why he is among the best architects. Thanks.

These are the links of the comments that I read:

Jan 27, 13 12:49 am

I would not look at Archdaily comments for any information. They are mostly students for whom anything that is not scripted is bad architecture, or they are disgrunted architects who have never published anything...

Jan 27, 13 3:04 am
What do YOU think about Renzo Piano?

I think you can see and judge a building through so many angles to a point that it just ambiguous... Make your own opinion based on what you think is good architecture...
Jan 27, 13 9:13 am

I think his stuff morphs, and therefore hits and misses.  I think Pompidou Centre is ghastly.  Some of his other stuff is ok.  I've seen the outside of his office while visiting Italy.  I have no clue what it looks like inside but, from the outside, it looks like an upscale panini shop.

Then, there's the critical mass issue, that he has generated so much work and therefore commissions sort of find him.  The same was true of Philip Johnson.  His biggest flop was that high-rise hotel near Boston harbor with the never ending Serlian windows.  History profs spoke of it laughingly.

Jan 27, 13 12:07 pm

A huge fraction of famous contemporary buildings are plagued with functional and aesthetic problems.  The buildings and their architects are famous because they have pushed the practice of architecture forward by trying some radical new form/technology/organization/idea.  The next time someone builds a Farnsworth House-type structure, it will probably maintain a lot of the original beauty and character but also reconcile the problems of flooding, privacy, and air conditioning.  From a practical standpoint, it will probably be a much better design but it will receive much less fame because it wasn't the FIRST attempt at a glass house on stilts.  Radical designs are often actually poor designs but if no one built them, we would still be living in caves.  Renzo an architect who always experiments with new ideas.  That is why he is considered a great architect.

Jan 27, 13 1:06 pm

Also his details are really well considered. Roma Auditorium was one of the finest buildings I've ever been in. The acoustics were astonishing, the space was gorgeous, the lead cladding blocks cell phones from going off and the doors dont connect to reduce vibration. Its smart stuff. I dont think I would consider his work high-minded in the black turtleneck philosophical sense, but I could easily say the same for Zaha and a lot of other people. He's a functionalist. He cares what works, mechanically, and he's boss at it. 

Im guessing a lot of the hate is just that his method is passe right now. 

Jan 27, 13 1:32 pm
See, I look at Pompidou Centre as a success. I know parts of its design are not the most practical, but if you've ever visited it, you see how many Parisians enjoy hanging out there. It stands out from the city but not to the degree of Tour Montparnasse.
Jan 27, 13 1:33 pm

People should also keep in mind that in 20 years everyones going to be hating on minimalism and all this parametric bullshit we're into now. Guys like Piano and Norman Foster just have the misfortune of having made their bones 80's.

Jan 27, 13 2:05 pm

For me it has always been the reconciliation of concept and construction in his work. There is a craft to all the details present. I've been fortunate to visit several of his works and been impressed most of the time (except for the Art Institute of Chicago Modern Wing, as it seems to be this weird combination of the Nasher and Beyeler Foundation). 

Also, not all of us young ones are into parametricism. I'm certainly not.

Jan 27, 13 2:34 pm

I will build on what Mings typed above...there is a quote from Piano I truly admire.

“As an architect you are a builder. You are of course more than a builder. You need to be a militant, you have to be a poet, you have to be a visionary, you have to be an artist. But certainly you have to be a builder. Everything starts from there.”

To me, this is the reason you see a higher level of craft and attention to detail in his works compared to other contemporary works of architecture.

One can open up Grasshopper and allow the computer to create a fancy pattern or shape, but if one does not contemplate how people will fabricate it, he/she misses out on a fantastic opportunity to introduce the human element of craft into their design.

Jan 27, 13 2:49 pm

i do not think that an architect becomes famous (hence one of the best) because he gives a lot of attention to detail or any other quality for that matter. apart from having reasonable architecture skills, i think that starchitects are very good advertisers and this is how they got their starchitect name.

for example in switzerland and germany there are many good architects who manage to achieve top quality in their projects, yet you only hear of herzog de meuron, zumthor, j. mayer h., etc. i can only attribute their success to publicity.

Jan 27, 13 3:18 pm

Having worked for the RPBW for a few years I have a few things to add.

Renzo is concerned with how his buildings look. But thats a secondary concern to advancing architecture. Researching through design. To fully appreciate his work one must understand the elements of innovation that go into each and every building.


observant mentioned that the Pompidou is ghastly. But I say that you are missing the point of the design. Its not about like or dislike with his buildings its about the experience and how he has pushed architecture and building further. The Pompidou is the first building of its kind, pushing all element to the exterior to allow maximum space inside for display unencumbered by clutter.

His buildings are best judged not by how they look but by the experience they provide. And in this way they are innovative and revolutionary. This is not understood by simply glossing over an image of his work in a book. It must be experienced and the experience the buildings provide must be studied inorder to understand why he is important to profession of architecture.

I could also talk about the custom and innovative detailing, Collaborative business pracitices, Changes to construction practices. These are elements that add to his practice being at the top of the profession and understood as one of the greats.

Jan 28, 13 4:20 pm

"it must be experienced"

The Renzo Piano Bar

Jan 28, 13 4:42 pm

Basically - every Thursday night  - Renzo Piano's Cal Academy in Golden Gate Park becomes a big party house from 6 - 10 -

Jan 28, 13 5:04 pm

"Depending on your point of view, Piano is either the most corporate avant-garde architect in the world or the most avant-garde corporate one" - pretty much his appeal in a nutshell.

Jan 28, 13 9:07 pm

Pompidou is awesome. Don't hate. 

When I was 22, I visited my girl friend who was teaching in Lyon.

We went to Paris over xmas. The first night we were there we bought two bottles of wine, a couple beers roamed around. 

Eventually we ended up at Pompidou and drank the rest of our booze outside.  

I was blown away. I'd never seen anything like it in my life. It truly is an exercise of creativity. Lighting, materials, organization, color...

Anyway, It was getting late and the museum was closing when I noticed something cool through one of the windows on the first floor.

There was a room full of amazing architecture models. Slowly, a bunch of classy dressed people started to show up and began to meander around the models between attending to the open bar...

Unaware of my drunken state i was pressed face first into the glass, peering in as hard as i could. I guess i was creeping some people out and security came over to ask me to step away from the window...

Anyway, we tried to sneak in and that didnt work. someone from the party spoke to me in french but i didnt understand that either so we left. 

but man. i did enjoy looking at that place!

Jan 28, 13 11:33 pm

I completely understand many of your comments. Of course, many of his buildings are amazing on the way they work. Actually, I think that Piano is an architect who concerns very much on lightness. You can see that his main idea how light penetrates to the building. I have seen many of his buildings, and they express a good quality of construction.  

Jan 29, 13 12:22 am

I think to sum things up rather easily, Renzo is not as progressive in his architecture as he was in his past, that goes for a lot of people today, Eisenman, Meier....etc.  His buildings are lovely, and good architecture, but they are not within the avant garde realm of the newer generation. 

Jan 30, 13 8:25 pm

Yes, I agree with the last comment but I feel that his buildings still have a better sensibility than other architects right now. His buildings are innovative in more functional way than artistic one, but they still represent some artistic principles. 

Jan 30, 13 11:01 pm

renzo is the man

Jan 31, 13 12:24 am

"I read a lot of comment which criticized Piano’s building negatively such as saying that his buildings were ugly. " First, ugly is a subjective term. Secondly people who call Renzo's work ugly should look at Tijbaou Cultural Center.

Jan 31, 13 7:34 am

Renzo currently has the most challenging of all commissions going up right now, designing an addition complementing Louis Kahn's masterpiece in Fort Worth, Texas.  It should sometime later this year.

Here's someone's response to Piano's original proposal for this project, and how it is informed by his overall work:

Renzo hits a lot more than he misses, and remains one of my biggest contemporary influences.

Jan 31, 13 12:41 pm

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