Renzo Piano, Pritzker Prize-Winning Architect

b. 1937

Close up of Italian Architect Renzo Piano in April 2015, eyeglasses, thinning white hair, white whiskers
Architect Renzo Piano in April 2015. Photo by John Lamparski/WireImage collection/Getty Images (cropped)

Italian architect Renzo Piano first gained success collaborating with British architect Richard Rogers. The pair spent the better part of the 1970s designing and building a cultural center in Paris, France—the Centre Georges Pompidou. It was career-launching architecture.

Born: September 14, 1937 in Genoa, Italy

Childhood:

Renzo Piano was born into a family of builders. His grandfather, father, four uncles, and brother were contractors.

Piano honored this tradition when he named his architecture firm Renzo Piano Building Workshop, as if it were forever to be a small family business.

" I was born into a family of builders, and this has given me a special relationship with the art of "doing." I always loved going to building sites with my father and seeing things grow from nothing, created by the hand of man. For a child, a building site is magic: today you see a heap of sand and bricks, tomorrow a wall that stands on its own; at the end it has all become a tall, solid building where people can live. I have been a lucky man: I have spent my life doing what I dreamt as a child.—Piano, 1998

Training and Professional Life:

  • 1959-1964: Studied at the Milan Politecnico, where he taught until 1968
  • 1964: Worked in his father's company
  • 1965-1970: Worked in offices of Louis I. Kahn in Philadelphia and Zygmunt Stanisław Makowski in London

Architectural Style:

Renzo Piano's work has been called high-tech and bold postmodernism. His 2006 renovation and expansion of the Morgan Library and Museum shows that he is much more than one style.

The interior is open, light, modern, natural, old and new at the same time. "Unlike most other architectural stars," writes architecture critic Paul Goldberger, "Piano has no signature style. Instead, his work is characterized by a genius for balance and context...."

Famous Buildings by Renzo Piano:

    Selected Awards:

    • 2013: Named a Senator for Life by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano
    • 2008: Gold Medal, American Institute of Architect (AIA)
    • 2000: Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, Venice, Italy
    • 1998: The Pritzker Architecture Prize
    • 1994: Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize
    • 1989: Royal Gold Medal for Architecture, Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), London, U.K.
    • 1984: Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres Award, Paris, France
    • 1981: Compasso d'Oro Award, Milan, Italy

    About Renzo Piano:

    Renzo Piano is often called a "High-Tech" architect because his designs showcase technological shapes and materials. However, human needs and comfort are at the center of Piano's designs.

    Critics note that Piano's work is rooted in the classical traditions of his Italian homeland. Judges for the Pritzker Architecture Prize credited Piano with redefining modern and postmodern architecture.

    Piano is also celebrated for his landmark examples of energy-efficient green design. With a living roof and a four-story rainforest, the California Academy of Sciences claims to be the "world's greenest museum," thanks to the design of Renzo Piano.

    Piano Quotations:

    " There is one theme that is very important for me: lightness....In my architecture, I try to use immaterial elements like transparency, lightness, the vibration of the light. I believe that they are as much a part of the composition as the shapes and volumes."—Piano, 1998
    " To be truly creative, the architect has to accept all the contradictions of his profession: discipline and freedom, memory and invention, nature and technology. There is no escape. If life is complicated, then art is even more so. Architecture is all of this: society, science and art."—Piano, 1998

    Sources: Molto Piano by Paul Goldberger, The New Yorker, May 29, 2006 [accessed June 24, 2014]; Renzo Piano quotations from 1998 Laureate Acceptance Speech, Prizker Architecture Prize Ceremony on June 17, 1998, the White House (PDF)