Renzo Piano Designs New Handbag Inspired by the Whitney Museum

© 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.”

Critical Round-Up: Renzo Piano’s Whitney Museum

© 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.

Piano’s Progress


In honor of Renzo Piano’s 75th (gasp!) birthday, we offer an update on his latest projects.  The septuagenarian has several large-scale works in various stages of construction scattered across the world, and has celebrated the opening of others within this past year.  While we have been continuously following the conceptualization, construction and completion of the Shard, Renzo’s talent is sweeping across major cities both in the States and Europe, including: a satellite museum in ; a cultural hub for Athens; an urban cultural catalyst for Santander, Spain; an interior renovation for Los Angeles; a recently completed museum wing for Boston; plus, a redeveloped brownfield site turned science center for Trento, Italy.  No matter the project location, scale, or program, Piano’s  ability to craft an architecture with a sense of lightness, strong attention to detail and overall aesthetic elegance sets him in a very particular category of the profession.

So, here’s to a happy 75th and 75 more years of great architecture, Renzo!

More after the break.

Whitney Museum Groundbreaking Celebration

© in collaboration with Cooper, Robertson & Partners

On May 24th the Whitney Museum of American Art will break ground on a 200,000 sqf facility, designed by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Renzo Piano. Located in the Meatpacking District adjacent to the southern entrance to the High Line, the building will provide the Whitney with essential new space for its collection, exhibitions, and education and performing arts programs in one of ’s most vibrant neighborhoods.

To celebrate this historic moment for the Museum, from May 19 to 27 they will host a series of events, programs, performances, and public art initiatives.  A special Community Day on Saturday May 21st will feature a variety of activities free and open to the public.

The invitation only ground breaking event begins at 11 am (doors open at 10:30 am) and will include appearances by Adam D. Weinberg, the Whitney’s Alice Pratt Brown Director, architect Renzo Piano, as well as the Whitney’s Board of Trustees and city officials, friends, artists, and other supporters.

Special performances by Elizabeth Streb and the STREB Extreme Action Company and So Percussion. The Whitney Museum of American Art’s new building is anticipated to open in 2015. More information can be found here.

AD Classics: Whitney Museum / Marcel Breuer

Fred Conrad, © New York Times

Containing one of the most reputable collections of American art from the 20 and 21st centuries, the Whitney Museum designed by Bauhaus-trained architect is an easily recognizable landmark of . It is known for emphasizing exhibitions of work of living artists while also maintaining an extensive permanent collection of other important pieces from the first half of the century.

More on the Whitney Musuem by Marcel Breuer after the break.

Update: Satellite Whitney Museum / Renzo Piano

Building Workshop

During the summer months, Renzo Piano’s satellite design for the Whitney was in the midst of juggling a touch combination of obstacles (as we reported earlier) – the economic downturn, pressure from the community and of course, the indecisiveness of the museum board. Piano had been redesigning his original vision – a stone clad museum which floated above a glass lobby – to lower construction costs. After selling property, including six brownstones on Madison Avenue and two on 74th Street, for an estimated $100 million, the Whitney has raised $475 million of its $680 million goal. Finally, the expansion – an idea which has been 25 years in the making – will breakground on the 24th of May.

More about the updated museum after the break.

Alternative to Piano’s Whitney Museum / Axis Mundi

© Axis Mundi

Axis Mundi … remember that firm?  Back when controversy surrounded Jean Nouvel’s proposed tower for the MoMA’s expansion, the firm offered an alternative stacked design highly different from Nouvel’s metallic creation. It seems  Axis Mundi is back for the shock value as the firm has just released images for their version of the new of American Art.    The current design, led by , utilizes his characteristically light and technical aesthetics (check out his Shard which is under construction) to create an elegant addition critics have challenge may be too “timid” – Axis Mundi’s design is anything but.  Their proposal incorporates a loud exoskeleton that not only seems completely out of scale, but also fights with its neighborhood for attention rather than settling into its context.   The geometry, which has been shaped by the sight lines and street grid of the city, intends to reference Breuer’s Whitney on Madison Avenue.   As The Architect’s Newspaper Blog noted, the proposal mentions nothing of cost – one of the biggest obstacles Piano is facing.

Check out more images of Axis Mundi’s proposal after the break.