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Seeming Inevitability: Reconsidering Renzo Piano’s Addition To Louis Kahn’s Kimbell

08:30 - 25 May, 2015
South view. Image © Robert LaPrelle
South view. Image © Robert LaPrelle

When Renzo Piano’s addition to the Kimbell opened in late 2013, critical responses ranged from “both architects at the top of their games” (Witold Rybczynski) to “generous to a fault” (Mark Lamster) to “distant defacement” (Thomas de Monchaux). In this excerpt from a special issue of Cite: The Architecture + Design Review of Houston, Ronnie Self gives a deeply considered assessment of the two buildings after a full turn of the seasons. The special issue also includes a review by Christopher Hawthorne of Johnston Marklee's plans for the Menil Drawing Institute, a review by David Heymann of Steven Holl’s expansion of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and an essay by Walter Hood and Carmen Taylor about Project Row Houses. Also featured are interviews of the directors of all four museums and their architects (Piano, Holl, Johnston Marklee, David Chipperfield, and Rice Building Workshop), making for a very comprehensive issue.

Piano’s main task was to respond appropriately to Kahn’s building which he achieved through alignments in plan and elevation and by dividing his project into two major bodies: a concrete walled, glass roofed pavilion facing Kahn and a separate, sod-roofed structure behind that should integrate a significant portion of the project with the landscape and thereby lessen its overall impact. Still, the loss of the open lawn that existed in front of the Kimbell where Piano’s building now stands is regrettable. Kahn’s Kimbell was conceived as a large house or a villa in a park, and unlike much of the abundant open and green space in the Fort Worth Cultural District, that park was actually used. Piano’s new outdoor space is more like a courtyard – more contained and more formal. It is more urban in its design, yet less public in its use.

Aside from lamenting the loss of the open lawn, how might we judge the addition?

View of the double staircase leading to the lower level. Image © Robert Polidori View from the southwest. Image © Robert LaPrelle Lobby view, looking south. Image © Nic Lehoux Detail of roof and beam system. Image © Robert LaPrelle +33

Renzo Piano Designs New Handbag Inspired by the Whitney Museum

13:30 - 12 May, 2015
Renzo Piano Designs New Handbag Inspired by the Whitney Museum, © Max Mara
© Max Mara

Renzo Piano has designed a limited-edition handbag for the Italian fashion brand Max Mara to match his newly completed Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. The leather, top-handle bag, inspired by the "pure design and sophisticated materials" of the Whitney, features distinct ribbing inspired by the museum's facade.

"Our aim was to apply one of the most characteristic elements of the museum project - the facade - to the bag: hence the idea of the modular strips enveloping the exterior," said Piano in an interview with Max Mara. "We tried to maintain a simple, pure design, working only on the details by applying a creative use of technology and placing the accent on respect for the materials."

Renzo Piano's First US Residential Tower to Rise in New York

15:19 - 8 May, 2015
Renzo Piano's First US Residential Tower to Rise in New York , Renzo Piano's recently completed Whitney Museum in New York City. Image © Paul Clemence
Renzo Piano's recently completed Whitney Museum in New York City. Image © Paul Clemence

According to the New York Post, Renzo Piano has been commissioned by Michael Shvo and Bizzi & Partners to design his first US residential tower. Planned to rise in the southern Manhattan district of Soho at 100 Varick Street, the Piano-designed tower will include up to 280,000 square-feet of housing and reach nearly 300 feet. Featured amenities include a "gated private driveway" and "automated parking." Stay tuned for more details. 

Why 2015's Most Important Design In Architecture Isn't A Building, But A New York Times Article

10:30 - 27 April, 2015

Looking towards the uppermost floors of the new Whitney Museum of American Art, thick clouds roll diagonally across the sky behind. Reflected in the ample window of the museum’s main gallery they dash in a different direction, while the building’s white facade flashes light and dark in response to the changing light conditions. Superimposed over this scene, bold all-caps lettering pronounces the title of an article: the simple but dramatic “A New Whitney.”

This is the sight that greeted readers of Michael Kimmelman’s review of the Whitney in The New York Times last Sunday. Scroll down just a little, and the first thing you encounter is a list of credits: Jeremy Ashkenas and Alicia Desantis produced the article; graphics were contributed by Mika Gröndahl, Yuliya Parshina-Kottas and Graham Roberts; and videos by Damon Winter (the editor behind the entire endeavor, Mary Suh, is not mentioned).

Before even reading the article’s opening words, one thing is clear: this is not your average building review. As a matter of fact, it might even be the most important article in recent architectural memory.

Critical Round-Up: Renzo Piano's Whitney Museum

09:30 - 22 April, 2015
Critical Round-Up: Renzo Piano's Whitney Museum, © Paul Clemence
© Paul Clemence

Depending on how you measure it, Renzo Piano's new building for the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York (designed in collaboration with New York practice Cooper Robertson) could be the most long-awaited museum of the 21st century. At just a fraction under seven years since the first designs of the building were released, the incubation period has been long enough on its own - but in fact the project has its roots in a scrapped 1981 design by Michael Graves, when the Whitney was instead planning an extension to their previous home in Marcel Breuer's 1966 masterpiece on Madison Avenue. With such a highly anticipated building, the Whitney could hardly have a better man for the job; Piano is one of the most prodigious museum builders of our time. Yet despite this, since construction began in 2011 the design has been beset by criticism for its ungainly external appearance.

Ahead of the Whitney's grand opening on May 1st, this past Sunday saw a slew of reviews from New York's many reputable art and architecture critics, who attempted to make sense of the institution's long-overdue move from their idiosyncratic but endearing former home. We've rounded up some of the best of them, after the break.

© Flickr CC user Payton Chung © Flickr CC user Steven Severinghaus © Flickr CC user Steven Severinghaus © Flickr CC user Bill Benzon +6

Renzo Piano and G124 to Transform Italian Suburbs with Shipping Containers

00:00 - 6 February, 2015
Renzo Piano and G124 to Transform Italian Suburbs with Shipping Containers, Courtesy of Renzo Piano and G124
Courtesy of Renzo Piano and G124

A group of six young architects under the leadership of Renzo Piano have been hard at work transforming unused spaces within Italy's suburban framework. The team, known as G124, focuses its efforts on injecting life back into overlooked and forgotten areas of its built environment and stimulating the local economy through design. This most recently entailed transforming a long abandoned area under a viaduct in northeast Rome into a bustling cultural hot-spot. 

Renzo Piano On 'Civic Duty' In Our Cities

00:00 - 13 January, 2015
Renzo Piano On 'Civic Duty' In Our Cities, President Giorgio Napolitano and Renzo Piano (2012). Image Courtesy of La Repubblica
President Giorgio Napolitano and Renzo Piano (2012). Image Courtesy of La Repubblica

In The New Yorker's latest Postcard from Rome Elizabeth Kolbert talks to Renzo Piano in his Senate Office at the Palazzo Giustiniani, just around the corner from the Pantheon. Piano, who was named a Senator for Life by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano in September 2013 (when he was 75 years of age), immediately "handed over the office, along with his government salary, to six much younger architects." He then "asked them to come up with ways to improve the periferie - the often run-down neighborhoods that ring Rome and Italy’s other major cities." Kolbert attests to Piano's belief in the power of museums and libraries and concert halls. For him, "they become places where people share values [and] where they stay together." "This is what I call the civic role of architecture."

Critical Round-Up: Renzo Piano's Harvard Art Museums

01:00 - 23 November, 2014
Critical Round-Up: Renzo Piano's Harvard Art Museums, © Nic Lehoux
© Nic Lehoux

With the opening of the Harvard Art Museums a week ago today, Renzo Piano was able to finally complete on a project which, in various guises, has been in progress for seventeen years. The relationship between Piano and Harvard began with a 1997 plan to build a new branch of the Fogg Museum on the Charles River and ended, after objections from locals and then the 2008 recession, in the decision to consolidate the university's three museums (The Fogg, Busch-Reisinger and Arthur M Sackler Museums) under one roof.

With its long history, restricted space, the listed facade of the original Fogg Museum and the ultimate difficult neighbor in Le Corbusier's Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, the Harvard Art Museums project was inevitably going to cause a fuss on completion. So how did Piano do? Find out what the critics said after the break.

© Nic Lehoux © Michel Denancé © Nic Lehoux Courtesy of Renzo Piano Building Workshop +9

Renzo Piano Gains Planning Permission for Shard-Adjacent Residential Tower

00:00 - 11 November, 2014
Renzo Piano Gains Planning Permission for Shard-Adjacent Residential Tower, View from Guy's Hospital Quad. Image Courtesy of RPBW
View from Guy's Hospital Quad. Image Courtesy of RPBW

Renzo Piano Building Workshop has been awarded planning approval for Feilden House, a 26-storey residential building at London Bridge Quarter, directly adjacent to the Shard. Designed to complement the Shard and Place Buildings, the third piece of Piano's London Bridge Developments will add "generous public realm amenities" to the area at ground level.

North-South Section. Image Courtesy of RPBW Courtesy of RPBW Typical Floor Plan Lower Levels. Image Courtesy of RPBW View from Thomas Street looking East. Image Courtesy of RPBW +7

Renzo Piano Comments on the Difficulties of Designing LA's Motion Picture Academy

00:00 - 9 October, 2014
Renzo Piano Comments on the Difficulties of Designing LA's Motion Picture Academy, 2013 Visualization. Image © Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Studio Pali Fekete architects, AMPAS
2013 Visualization. Image © Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Studio Pali Fekete architects, AMPAS

In discussion with Christopher Hawthorne of the LA Times, Renzo Piano has taken his comments of modesty - verging on "self-deprecation" - to a new level. In response to questions about the design of the proposed Motion Picture Academy in Los Angeles he has said: "I don't think it will be that bad. [...] Actually, I'm struggling to do something good." Although Piano's design has previously been met with criticisms from Hawthorne, the Italian architect notes in this latest interview that "everything we've made at LACMA has been extremely complicated." The project, which has already seen a major alteration in the core design team, remains set to complete in 2015.

Renzo Piano Explains How To Design the Perfect Museum

01:00 - 5 August, 2014
Renzo Piano Explains How To Design the Perfect Museum, The new Whitney Museum building, seen from the West Side Highway in July. Image © Paul Clemence
The new Whitney Museum building, seen from the West Side Highway in July. Image © Paul Clemence

In the following article, originally published on Metropolis Magazine as "Q&A: Renzo Piano", Paul Clemence talks with the Italian master of museum design about the design process and philosophies that have brought him such tremendous success in the field - from sketching, to behaving with civility, to buildings that 'fly', Piano explains what makes the perfect museum.

There's a reason why Renzo Piano is known as the master of museum design. The architect has designed 25 of them, 14 in the US alone. Few architects understand as well as Piano—along with his practice, the Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW)—what board directors, curators, and even the visiting public needs and wants in a cultural institution like a museum. When I spoke with Donna de Salvo, chief curator of the Whitney Museum of American Art, whose new downtown digs were authored by RPBW she remarked on the how the curators' input was often incorporated into the final building design. “Our curators and the architects had an ongoing dialogue throughout the design of this building," de Salvo says. "The physical needs of the art were a priority for Renzo and his team, down to the most seemingly minute detail. Our curatorial voice was central to the discussion and has given us a terrifically dynamic building, a uniquely responsive array of spaces for art.”

But what often goes unmentioned is how well Piano's buildings, particularly his museums, connect to their surroundings. The buildings not only perform well, but they integrate themselves into the life of the city, as if they have always been there. From Beaubourg to The New York Times Building, they fully embrace the space and energy of their urban contexts. Now, as two of his newest and very high-profile museum projects near completion—the renovation and expansion of the Harvard Art Museums (due to open this Fall) and the Whitney Museum of Art (expected to be in use by Spring 2015)—I had a chance to meet with Piano at his Meatpacking District office to talk about the creative process, criticisms, contemporary architecture, and “flying” buildings.

Vive la France: A Round-Up of French AD Classics

00:00 - 14 July, 2014
Vive la France: A Round-Up of French AD Classics, © Flavio Bragaia
© Flavio Bragaia

In honor of Bastille Day, we've rounded up some of our favorite AD Classics built in France. From Bernard Tschumi's Parc de la Villette to our most popular classic project, Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye, take a moment to revisit these renowned works. 

© Hans Werlemann, courtesy OMA © flickr user thearchigeek. Used under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/'>Creative Commons</a> ©Yuri Palmin © flickr user dalbera. Used under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/'>Creative Commons</a> +7

Shard Wins Emporis Skyscraper Award

01:00 - 20 May, 2014
Shard Wins Emporis Skyscraper Award, The Shard / Renzo Piano. Image © Eric Smerling
The Shard / Renzo Piano. Image © Eric Smerling

The Shard has been awarded this year's Emporis Skyscraper Award, bringing the award back to Europe after two consecutive wins in North America - by Absolute Towers in 2013 and New York by Gehry in 2012. Each year, the award honours the world's best new building over 100m tall.

The award's jury praised the Shard's "unique glass fragment-shaped form and its sophisticated architectural implementation", resulting in "a skyscraper that is recognized immediately and which is already considered London's new emblem."

Read on to find out the remaining 10 buildings to take home awards

Flame Towers / HOK. Image Courtesy of HOK DC Tower 1 / Dominique Perrault Architecture. Image © Michael Nagl Sheraton Huzhou Hot Spring Resort / MAD Architects. Image © Xiazhi Nanfung Commercial, Hospitality and Exhibition Complex / Aedas. Image © Langham Place, Guangzhou +20

40 Architecture Docs to Watch In 2014

01:00 - 16 January, 2014
Gehry's Vertigo. Image Courtesy of Living Architectures
Gehry's Vertigo. Image Courtesy of Living Architectures

This time last year we published our 30 Architecture Docs to Watch in 2013 featuring a fantastic range of films telling the tales of some of the world's greatest unsung architectural heroes. We now bring you eleven more for 2014, looking past the panoply of stars to bring you more of the best architectural documentaries which will provoke, intrigue and beguile.

Renzo Piano-Designed Residential Tower Planned to Neighbor the Shard

00:00 - 15 January, 2014
Renzo Piano-Designed Residential Tower Planned to Neighbor the Shard, View of The Shard from Millennium Bridge (June 2012). Image © Michel Denancé
View of The Shard from Millennium Bridge (June 2012). Image © Michel Denancé

Sellar Property Group has announced plans to commission yet another Renzo Piano-designed tower in London at the base of The Shard. Replacing the current Fielden House, a 1970s office building located on London Bridge Street, the new 27-story residential tower plans to provide 150 apartments, retail space and roof garden. As part of the area’s regeneration plan, the project will be the third Piano-designed building on the block.  

Museum Round Up: The Box is Back

00:00 - 21 November, 2013
Clyfford Still Museum. Image ©  Jeremy Bittermann
Clyfford Still Museum. Image © Jeremy Bittermann

In a recent article for the Denver Post, Ray Rinaldi discusses how the box is making a comeback in U.S. museum design. Stating how architecture in the 2000’s was a lot about swoops, curves, and flying birds - see Frank Gehry and Santiago Calatrava - he points out the cool cubes of David Chipperfield and Renzo Piano. We've rounded up some of these boxy works just for you: the Clyfford Still Museum, the Kimbell Art Museum Expansion, The St. Louis Art Museum's East Building, Tod Williams and Billie Tsien's Barnes Foundation, and Shigeru Ban's Aspen Art Museum. Each project begins to show how boxes can be strong, secure, and even sly. Check out more about the article here

Review: ‘Richard Rogers: Inside Out’ at the Royal Academy

00:00 - 17 September, 2013
Review: ‘Richard Rogers: Inside Out’ at the Royal Academy, Zip-Up House Concept drawing (1968) - courtesy of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners. Image © Richard and Su Rogers
Zip-Up House Concept drawing (1968) - courtesy of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners. Image © Richard and Su Rogers

“Architecture is too complex to be solved by any one person.”

Richard Rogers is an architect who understands the significance of collaboration. As a man with an intense social mind and a thirst for fairness in architectural and urban design, Rogers’ substantial portfolio of completed and proposed buildings is driven by the Athenian citizen’s oath of “I shall leave this city not less but more beautiful than I found it.”

In honor of his success, London’s Royal Academy (RA) is currently playing host to a vast retrospective of Richard Rogers’ work, from his collaborations with Norman Foster and Renzo Piano, to the large-scale projects that define Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP) today. The RA’s extensive exhibition has been condensed into a series of motifs that have defined his architectural work, punctuated by memorabilia which offer personal insights into how Rogers’ career has been shaped by the people he’s worked with and the projects that he has worked on.

Continue after the break for a selection of highlights from the exhibition. 

Renzo Piano Becomes Italian Senator

00:00 - 3 September, 2013
Renzo Piano Becomes Italian Senator, Courtesy of Architectural Review
Courtesy of Architectural Review

Pritzker Prize winning architect Renzo Piano has been named a senator for life by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, giving him the right to vote in the Parliament’s Upper House. Napolitano also appointed three others to the position, including Claudio Abbado (an accomplished conductor), Elena Cattaneo (a biologist specializing in stem cell research), and Carlo Rubbia (a Nobel Prize winning particle physicist).