Monday, May. 08, 2006

Renzo Piano

Renzo Piano is an absolute master of light and lightness. He has a fantastic understanding of construction and the scale of pieces. I don't think there is anybody like him. He's the son of a builder who was very close to his father and very proud that he was a builder; it gives him tremendous roots. The unusual thing about Piano, 68, is that he works from small to big. I had never met an architect like that before.

He doesn't approach a building from the point of an idea; it grows out of the ground. He's also one of the most elegant architects I know. He's elegant in person, but also his structures are very elegant, very humanistic. They aren't pieces of abstract sculpture. They grow out of understanding how buildings go together and how light comes through them; he designs roofs that pull light in. Piano has moved on from the massive machine — like the Pompidou Center in Paris, which we designed together and which is full of people, like a big climbing frame — to very beautiful museums and libraries. Each one is a bit more elegant. Piano has terrific range. I love the San Nicola football stadium in Bari, Italy, which is a massive statement — big petals of concrete that come out of the ground. Then there is the Beyeler building in Switzerland that is as light as anything. I won't say which of his buildings is my favorite. I will say he's my favorite architect. He's one of the supreme modern architects of his generation. He's also a fanatical sailor. He designs his own boats. When we were first friends, almost 40 years ago, he designed a concrete sailing boat. And actually it worked very well.

Rogers designed London's Lloyd's Building and the Millennium Dome