Close to turning 80, Renzo Piano takes stock of his long career at his house in Punta Nave, above his office and foundation on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean, close to his native Genoa.
In Search of Lightness
LFG: Your first experiences as an architect were threaded together by a search for lightness. And they led to your first significant work, the pavilion of Italian industry in Osaka, in 1970.
RP: It’s very simple. When you are young, you try to do the opposite of what your father’s been doing. My father was making buildings with sand, concrete, and bricks. I wanted to do something that was the opposite of that, but I don’t think looking for lightness was intended only as rebellion. I instinctively took pleasure in light things, and working with lightness might be a bit more poetic, as working with transparency. Lightness and transparency are very close friends. And also light. Just light. Light is one of the most important materials in construction. Certainly the desire for lightness came from many things, maybe including a kind of challenge to do things with few materials. The bicycle is a beautiful object because you can understand it, you can see the forces, how it works. It’s a lightweight structure.[+]