King of the Hill

Italian architect Renzo Piano is changing the face of America, one inventive building at a time

Tim Griffith

Piano's Academy building is topped by a green roof.

It's just two days before its official reopening, and the new California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco looks like the old MGM lot back when they used to shoot five pictures at one time. Caterers hauling pumpkins are brushing past construction workers sweeping out the man-made rain forest. Divers in wet suits are hauling themselves out of the coral-reef tank. And Renzo Piano, the Italian architect who is very good at finding order in chaotic situations, looks pleased.

He should be. Future historians may look back on the first decade or so of 21st century American architecture as the Age...

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