Renzo Piano is better than you – and reasons you should think so, too

Renzo Piano has long been my favorite architect.  He’s Italian (everything from Italy is better), he pushes the envelope when it comes to designing awesome stuff, he’s cutting edge…he’s pretty much everything an architect should want to be.

The number one reason why Renzo piano is better than you: he designs buildings that respond to their context; specifically, he pays attention to the geographical location, the social and cultural significance, and the material choice’s relationship to all of these.  Don’t agree?  Let’s dissect the works of other starchitects and see how they measure up against Renzo:

Frank Gehry?  Regurgitation after regurgitation.  Yes, these are all different buildings located throughout the world:

Metallllll! ! ! !

Image from http://www.studio-international.co.uk/studio-images/gehry/disney_hall_5b.jpg

Image from Wikipedia

Image from Wikipedia

Image from Wikipedia

And Vanity Fair said he was one of “the most important architects of our time”? Really? (Not that we should trust their opinion anyway…)  While I’m on my “I hate Frank Gehry” rant, has anyone actually been inside his buildings?  For the ones I’ve visited, the attention to detail was non-existent.  It’s as if he crumpled up his signature sketch, and had the intern come and make it into a building (no offense, interns). I can appreciate his buildings from about 100 yards away, but any closer than that and I’m distracted by all of the awkward glass-to-metal intersections, ill-placed exit signs and vertigo inducing ceilings.  Observe:


From 100 yards, approaching the Guggenheim in Bilbao: “Omg! It’s the Guggenheim! So much amazing-ness! I’m so excitaaaaad!!”

A closer inspection reveals significantly less awesomeness:

“oh Dear Lord, what happened?!  They either ran out of funding for the last office, or someone overshot the dimensions between connections.”

Who does that???  I mean, we’re outside – why do you need glass there?  And why make it such a pain for the contractors to build when it adds nothing to the building?  Maybe it’s a shield from the metal’s death rays?  Who knows.

Enough about Frank Gehry (I could go on, but I digress).  On to Richard Meier!  He really likes white.  And white, with more white.  Anyone else longing to see some color?

Image from http://imgs.abduzeedo.com

Image from http://www.artrabbit.com

Image from Wikipedia

I do enjoy his buildings, but seriously, I think using a different material would be refreshing (and slightly off-white materials don’t count).

How about Daniel Libeskind’s buildings?  I feel that they want to cut me.

Image from Wikipedia

Image from Wikipedia

Image from Wikipedia

What’s up with Zaha Hadid?  Swoopey line drawing buildings.  That is all.

Dallas Museum of Art

Image via Wikipedia

 

Image from Wikipedia

Ordrupgaard Copenhagen Zaha Hadid 2

Image via Wikipedia

 

How about that Tadao Ando and his love for concrete?  I can’t blame him, really – who hasn’t been drawn to the smooth, silky concrete and felt it up a bit?  But seriously, I think he’s mastered this material…time to try something new.

茨木春日丘教会の教会堂である「光の教会」のシンボル、光の十字架。2006年10月9日に投稿者が撮影。

Image via Wikipedia

Image from http://en.wikiarquitectura.com

Row House (Azuma House), Sumiyoshi, Osaka, in ...

Image via Wikipedia

Steven Holl in a nutshell: He likes to cut out shapes

from a planar surfaces.  I’m surprised he hasn’t made a pop-up building yet.

Image from http://www.treehugger.com

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Image from http://www.dezeen.com

Though visually interesting, what does it add beyond novelty?  (The storefront is pretty sweet, but I’d like to see something fresh)

Is anyone else sensing a pattern with these architects?

Each one has a distinct style, whether through their form, material choice or how they manipulate said materials.  You can tell who designed it just by looking at the color or material.

What is the first rule you learn in architecture?  That every building is unique and demands a new strategy – in form, in function, in systems, in details.  Why is it that all of these famous architects stick to one style over and over?  Now let’s compare them all to Renzo Piano:

Image from http://inhabitat.com

Marie Tjibaou cultural center – New Caledonia.  A cultural center that – GASP – relates to the culture!  Who knew!?

Image from http://www.galinsky.com/buildings/pompidou/pompidou1.jpg

The Pompidou Centre- pushing the boundaries of what a building is, how it performs and how it relates to the society around it.  I could go on with theory, but that would be too predictable!

How about some art museums?  These are located in Texas, but they don’t  look the same.  Each one has a different roof system that allows natural light in.  They’re delicate and unassuming – not screaming for attention or making a huge statement.

The Menil:

Image from http://img.timeinc.net/time/photoessays/2008/renzo_piano

Cy Twombly:

Image from Flickr

The Nasher:

Image from http://archone.tamu.edu

Shall we look at some of his music halls?

Parco della musica – these things are so gritty and industrial (and they look like giant armadillos – which is pretty cool, imo).  Go to Rome and you’ll understand why he chose these materials.  (Rome is a gritty, dirty city – enjoyable, but raw.  Someone should tell people that defacing the pantheon with graffiti is generally regarded as a bad thing)

Image from Architizer

Auditorium Paganini – another music hall but completely different from the one in rome.  Reuse of an old factory in a beautifully creative way.  (and he had to make the acoustics work with two glass walls…I’d like to see you do that.  One more reason he’s better than you.)

I think I’ve joined the ranks of the starchitects and beat this one to death.  So, now that we’ve concluded that Renzo is better than you, we can move on with our lives.  Don’t you feel better now?  I know I do!  Next time you see an awesome building you can’t quite assign to a specific architect, know that it’s because Renzo designed it.  He has his own category:  Better than you.

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  • Tngo

    I think gehry intentionally makes his interiors kind of bland in order to draw attention to his sculptural forms

    • That is a possibility. I don’t mind bland interiors so much as I mind awkward interiors. There was a lack of attention to detail in many of his interiors that I toured, which made it seem all the attention was given to the exterior form (visual appeal) and not to the way the building would function and serve its users.

  • Tngo

    But I like your article pointing out the comparison

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