Renzo Piano Building Workshop: complete works
One of the acclaimed of his most designers generation, Renzo Piano established his international reputation through his collaboration with Richard Rogers and Peter Rice on the Centre Pompidou in Paris. The Renzo Piano Building Workshop has since completed projects as diverse as the gallery for the De Menil Collection in the USA and the Columbus International Exposition in Italy. This series of three volumes covers his entire body of work to date.
Volume I features numerous case studies including the Bari Sports Stadium in Italy and the first stages of the Kansai Airport International Terminal in Japan. Widely acclaimed on publication, the book includes an authoritative introductory essay as well as specially redrawn drawings and plans.
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For the twelve of us who actually prefer to read a monograph instead of merely flipping through, there’s plenty of text in this one. I want to say that the allotment of photographs and drawings is sufficient enough for such a portfolio, but Buchanan provides so much description that the visual documents seem to fall short in comparison. Generally this is a solid, if not the, contribution to an understanding of Piano’s first few decades. Buchanan’s lengthy essays try to eschew the typical monograph hagiography by inserting occassional token criticisms (the Lowara Offices project are a bit “glib”; IRCAM’s corner treatment is “disturbing,” causing the overall result to be “flimsy and insubstantial.”), but the primary theme is an accepting objectivity. The projects are mostly interesting and evidence a diversity that one may forget the Workshop is capable of after visiting the umpteenth consecutive glass-with-louvers/screens/rods/thingies box. Early on Buchanan attempts to dissuade the reader of the oft-mentioned perception that Piano and Co.’s work relies on the assemblage of discrete – and pricey - components. I would agree that certain projects in this volume and later go way beyond such aggregation strategies. But seriously, much of this work is exactly that. That’s certainly fine in my book because with the right budget – say a nice Pianinan $3,000 per square foot - the whole can indeed be greater than the sum of the parts! Warning: Kids with only $120/sf shouldn’t try this at home…