Renzo Piano's hand-made 'fragments' at Gagosian

The Pritzker-Prize winner is the subject of a retrospective at The Gagosian's 522 West 21st Street gallery
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Parco della Musica Auditorium , 1994-2004. © Renzo Piano Building Workshop. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery. Photography by Maggi Moreno.
Parco della Musica Auditorium , 1994-2004. © Renzo Piano Building Workshop. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery. Photography by Maggi Moreno.

Plenty of today's top architects would have a hard time filling 24 table-top displays. With the advent of computer-aided design, a large part of the building design process takes place digitally, leaving behind nothing but a string of data once the building is finished. The 75-year-old Italian born architect, Renzo Piano however, suffers no such difficulties.

The multi-award winning Piano - best known for the Paris Pompidou Centre, which he completed with his erstwhile partner, Richard Rogers, in 1977, and London's Shard skyscraper, which he topped out in 2012 - prides himself on the physical aspect of his work, as a forthcoming retrospective at New York's Gagosian gallery should prove.

 

California Academy of Sciences, 2000-2008. © Renzo Piano Building Workshop. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery. Photography by Tom Fox, SWA Group
California Academy of Sciences, 2000-2008. © Renzo Piano Building Workshop. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery. Photography by Tom Fox, SWA Group

Renzo Piano Building Workshop: Fragments runs 27 June to August 2, and consists of two-dozen waist-high displays packed with scale models, drawings, photographs, and even the occasional video. The exhibition endeavours to uncover Piano's creative process, which the architect characterises as physical, rather than cerebral.

As Renzo puts it in a quote to accompany the show's press release, "Knowing how to do things not just with the head, but with the hands as well: this might seem a programmatic and ideological goal. It is not. It is a way of safeguarding creative freedom."

 

Jean-Marie-Tjibaou Cultural Center, 1991-1998. © Renzo Piano Building Workshop. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery. Photography by Pierre-Alain Pantz.
Jean-Marie-Tjibaou Cultural Center, 1991-1998. © Renzo Piano Building Workshop. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery. Photography by Pierre-Alain Pantz.

Piano was born into a family of builders, and emphasises his craftsman-like heritage in the very name of his architectural firm; Renzo Piano Building Workshop sounds like the kind of place where you'll definitely find a set square, even if you can't get a perfect wifi signal. Is he one of the last architects who could also lay a brick wall, or do we make an unnecessary fetish of the physical, in an age when we can pretty much 3D print a building?

To find out more, go to the show. For more on Renzo and his practice, please take a look at our great books, including Renzo Piano Building Workshop: Complete Works.



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