RA show rightly casts Renzo Piano as pragmatist and dreamer

Renzo Piano Building Workshop: The Shard and the London skyline in 2012

Source: Williams Matthews

The first big architecture exhibition since David Chipperfield united the two halves of the Royal Academy is a hit

Set within a trio of galleries on the Burlington Gardens end of the recently revamped Royal Academy, Renzo Piano: The Art of Making Buildings delights with a layout that is simple and direct yet richly detailed in the material presented. Refreshingly free of polemic, much like Piano’s work itself, the exhibition elegantly communicates the work of a gentle architect and his studio of exceptional talent.

Two bookend rooms tell the story of 16 buildings, each one presented to us like a meal on a table, plein air dioramas revealing each from commission to completion. The hundreds of displayed items cover everything from unexpected Technicolor study models for the Whitney to deputy prime minister John Prescott’s infamous Shard letter. The selection is the product of close collaboration between RA curators and Piano himself. Casually lined with foldable director’s chairs, they invite you to come in and have a seat and read and learn; how un-2018. One could easily imagine Piano and his colleagues deep in conversation in the same chairs while overlooking the Genovese coast from their cliff-top studio.

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