Iconic Projects by Renzo Piano

Renzo Piano was an Italian Architect who was Awarded the Pritzker Prize in 1998. the Pritzker Jury compared him to Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Brunelleschi, highlighting “his intellectual curiosity and problem-solving techniques as broad and far ranging as those earlier masters of his native land.”

1. The Shard

  • Year: 2012
  • Type: Mixed-use
  • Location: London

The Shard, also known as the London Bridge Tower, is a 72-storey, mixed-use tower located beside London Bridge Station on the south bank of the River Thames. A mix of uses – residential, offices, and retail – creates a building that is in use 24 hours a day. The slender and pyramidal form of the tower was determined by its suitability to this mix: large floor plates at the bottom for offices; restaurants, public spaces, and a hotel located in the middle; private apartments at the top of the building. Eight sloping glass facades, the “shards” define the shape and visual quality of the tower, fragmenting the scale of the building and reflecting the light in unpredictable ways. The extra-white glass used on the Shard gives the tower a lightness and a sensitivity to the changing sky around it, the Shard’s color and mood are constantly changing.

2. Centre Georges Pompidou

  • Year: 1977
  • Type: Culture and Leisure
  • Location: Paris

An immediate architectural icon of Paris – the Centre national d’art et de culture Georges-Pompidou (Centre Pompidou, or Beaubourg) – is a vast multidisciplinary structure, a culture factory that preserves and exhibits important modern art collections.

The entire structure of the 10-floor building (7 above ground, 3 below) is made of steel. Huge 48m warren trusses span the full width of the building. They are connected to columns at each end by a die-cast steel ‘gerberette’. This massive, visible set of structural components removes the requirement for internal support and thus enables the creation of huge open spaces. The resulting 50 x 170m plateaus can be arranged and equipped for any activity. To achieve maximum flexibility within these vast internal spaces, the services and circulation have been placed outside them. Lifts and escalators are contained within the support structure on the piazza façade. Escalators zig-zagging through transparent tubes up the front of the building afford increasingly extraordinary views out over Paris. The color-coded utilities (blue for air, green for water, yellow for electricity, and red for vertical circulation) are positioned along the Rue Beaubourg, street-side façade.

3. Jerome Seydoux Pathe Foundation

  • Year: 2014
  • Type: Cultural Center and Museum
  • Location: Paris

The new headquarters of the Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé is an unexpected presence, a curved volume glimpsed floating in the middle of a courtyard, anchored on just a few supports. The new building houses Pathé’s archives, exhibition spaces for temporary and permanent collections, a 70-seat screening room, and the Pathé Foundation’s offices. The project called for the demolition of the two existing buildings to create an organic shaped ‘creature’ that better responds to the restrictions of the site.

A new transparent building just behind the street facade that looks a little like a greenhouse, is the public area of the Foundation. From this building, visitors have a view through the transparent ground floor of the second building in the courtyard that houses the project’s main activities, to the garden beyond. The peculiar design of this building is determined by the limits and requirements of the site. While keeping its distance from the surrounding buildings, the new building actually improves its neighbours’ access to daylight and air and by reducing the building’s footprint, the project creates space for a garden at the back of the site.

The upper part of the building is made of glass, providing natural light for the Foundation’s offices. From the street the building is glimpsed through and over the restored façade – a discreet presence during the daytime, it will softly glow at night.

4. Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre

  • Year: 1998
  • Type: Cultural Centre
  • Location: Noumea

Erected in honour of the New Caledonian political leader assassinated in 1989, the Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre pays homage to Kanak culture and draws on local building traditions and expertise by intertwining the ancient and the modern.

There are ten huts, of three different sizes, from 20 to 28m in height, all interconnected by a footpath. Within the Cultural Centre these huts serve various functions. The first group comprises exhibition spaces, a second series of huts houses research areas, a conference room and a library. The last series of huts contains studios for music, dance, painting and sculpture. These buildings have a curved shape that references traditional Kanak constructions but here rather than the traditional woven vegetable fibre, these buildings are made of wooden ribs and slats: traditional exteriors inside of which all the benefits of modern technology are provided.

The buildings have a highly efficient passive ventilation system which eliminated the need for mechanical air conditioning. Air circulates freely between the layers of slatted wood through the double outer facade. The angling of the apertures of the external facade was designed to harness the monsoon winds coming in from the sea, the prevailing winds. The flow of air is regulated by adjustable louvers, which open when the wind is light to allow for fresh air, but close when wind speeds pick up. 

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