Renzo Piano and His Enthusiasm for the Public Buildings

Just going through some of Renzo Piano’s interviews on his buildings and architectural philosophy, it was quite easy to catch his vision of building a museum and its organic interaction with the public. He kept mentioning openness and accessibility that does not create intimidation. The terms he used to describe his perspective of creating public space on a museum site were very organic, original, and ‘fat-free’ that they made me realize how simple a primary goal of the ‘public space’ should be. He has done 25 museum buildings over the years, 14 in U.S. alone and many have defined him as a museum master. Yet, Piano’s focal point of his success is that he ‘much prefer public buildings’ that enrich a community. It is fair to say that his enthusiasm for the public buildings and constant evaluation of the museum architecture have led to social development of the sites and their surrounding communities. Here are the most famous museums built by Renzo Piano.

Whitney Museum at Gansevoort

NEW YORK, U.S.A (2015)

Built in Meatpacking District in downtown Manhattan that lies between the Hudson and the High Line, the $422 million Whitney Museum holds exhibitions of modern and contemporary American Art, which is defined as ‘freedom’ by Renzo Piano. His architectural philosophy on museum chiefly focuses on the public space and its interactive communication with the visitors. Speaking of the site, Piano was approached to do an extension of the museum on Madison Avenue, yet he selected this specific site for the new Whitney for two main reasons: Gertrude Whitney, the founder of the Whitney Museum, came from there- going back to the origin, the root of the Whitney. And ultimately he needed a ground floor space, like a piazza, to unlock a spatial barrier from the community to build ‘urbanity and openness.’ He fundamentally questioned a role of public space in a city. Sharing a collaborative theory on public space and its potential growth, new Whitney and the High Line cannot be separated, in terms of creating public atmosphere by both studying a structure of the community in earnest. The gallery floor is made of a recycled hard pine, demonstrating a sense of distance from a typical luxurious museum.

It’s also a place where artists are going to be able to let rip. And if they scuff the floors, so what? In any case, we’ve got a reserve supply. – Adam Weinberg, a director of Whitney

Asymmetrical form of the building, column-free exhibition spaces, massive volumes, absorbing industrial aspect of a community history, open ground floor… he defines them as ‘pleasure.’ The street has extended and become a portion of a museum space.

Centre Georges Pompidou

Paris, France (1977)

so it all began way back in 1971, when French Ministry of Culture organized a competition for occupying the vast Plateau Beaubourg to bring art and culture, and Italian architect Renzo Piano and British architect Richard Rogers won. Exposed mechanical and structural systems that are painted in different colors which represent their uses, has enabled functionality of interior spaces to fully maximize – blue for air, green for water, yellow for electricity, and red for circulating people. It is such a radical, yet upright design approach to achieve both spatial potential and its maximum flexibility of the infrastructure…in the most thoughtful way. Its primary aim and distance from abstraction is very clear in design. The architecture that is made of steel and glass is also known as representing the atmosphere of the period as

it was a highly active period of politics, and you could argue that it was a part of the concept [for the building]. This was a dynamic period, a period of change, but we wanted to catch what was going on at the moment. – Architect Richard Rogers

Pompidou was built to generate a relationship of art and people, and most importantly, interaction between people and people. Creating an open piazza that Paris needed, then allowed an exposed vertical circulation along the facade. Within the unexpected, contemporary cultural architecture that signifies ‘structural expressionism,’ huge internal space has well correlated to its exterior open public space to unify the whole concept of the building. It was his way to demonstrate two specific spaces that belong to the public.

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