The Genovese architect Renzo Piano celebrated his 80th birthday on September 14th, and he is always on the move all over the world, full of energy and constantly working on new projects, and addressing young people. He has never taught at university even if conveying knowledge to younger generations is something he believes to be extremely important. So important that in 2004, in Genoa, he established the Renzo Piano Foundation.
He still remembers how important was for him, as a young man, to work in the studio of his mentor, Franco Albini, while attending university and today he thinks that university should give the information and tools, but that over a certain age, 22-23, youngsters no longer need to receive too much information. What they need are examples, and in this sense, nothing is better than a workshop. University training is needed, but they also must go further. He always suggests to young people to have courage, to take the plunge run the risks.
While watching a temple being built, on a trip to Japan, Piano began to wonder how to convey his professional experience to young people. In the Shinto tradition, every twenty years, the temple is dismantled and rebuilt identically on a site opposite the previous one, with the purpose of handing down construction and craft skills from one generation to the next. During the building, three generations come together: one that teaches, being over 60 years old, one that, having learned, erects the new building in keeping with tradition, and the young generation, which looks and learns. From this came the idea of doing so through a Foundation to welcome students to his workshop. It is a non-profit institution devoted to promoting the architectural profession by conducting study and research in the architectural field. Moreover, the Foundation has the purpose to preserve and make available the project documents accumulated in his forty years long career.
The secret of a creative endeavor, in Piano’s opinion is to know how to share it generously with others without doing any bookkeeping. Thanks to the work of the Foundation, students go to Genoa from around the world to exchange knowledge. Piano says: “It is not a gesture of generosity, I would say that it is natural, physiological. You give to the youngsters, but you also receive from them, because they carry the sense of the future.”
Ilona Catani Scarlett