Throughout his career, Renzo Piano has designed dozens of museum buildings becoming the most prolific museum designer of our time. Yet, it has been some time since one of his designs has been as widely discussed and analyzed as his latest, the Whitney Museum in New York. In this interview, originally published on The Value of Architecture as "A House for Freedom: an Interview with Renzo Piano," David Plick speaks with Piano about the many inspirations of the Whitney Museum, from the previous Whitney Museum by Marcel Breuer to the neighboring High Line, the city on one side and the river on the other.
Renzo Piano is the great champion of public space. Whether the visitors and citizens of the city are aware of it or not, he improves their quality of life by sharing with them a living space designed specifically for the cultivation and dispersion of ideas and the enrichment of civic life. He’s the architect who cares about the individual’s experience of a building, who cares about how people interact with the space, and how the space then interacts with the world. At the Whitney Museum of American Art, much like the Centre Pompidou, or Beaubourg as he would say, he showed this by including a large area in front—a “piazza” he calls it—for people to meet, congregate, chat, and even loiter. He’s somehow simultaneously innovative and selfless. And because of this, he can masterfully fuse form and function, creating beauty for himself because he loves it and thinks it will save people, yet it all means nothing to him if he can’t share in this emotion with others.