Renzo Piano and the Architecture of Politeness

With the financial collapse and the tightening reigns on the budgets of museums and philanthropic outlets in general, the prolific creator of contemporary museum spaces, Renzo Piano, seems poised to maintain a long-term influence on the spaces in which we see art, writes Sean Keller in his AIGA writing award winning Artform piece “Well-tempered Piano.”

Some say Piano is today’s I.M. Pei, Keller writes, but given Piano’s light touch and approachable modernism: “If Piano is our Pei, it suggests we might be getting a little soft.” This leaves Keller will many questions:

How can one engage with buildings that, in their modesty, shun engagement, that consistently aim for such unprovocative goals as refinement, quality, and urbanity? Accustomed to more aggressive projects that demand attention, how does one assess such well-mannered architecture that usually seems content to remain as the background, as the frame?

Looking at Dallas’ Nasher Sculpture Center, Keller sees Piano’s repetition of structures influenced by the Kimbell’s architect, Louis Kahn, as indicative of Piano’s architectural philosophy:

This process of repetition with variation is the clearest sign of Piano’s long-running effort to practice architecture as a craft rather than an art of self-expression, and it marks his deepest split with many of his equally famous peers.

Thanks to commenter Ben who prompted us to take a look at Keller’s piece, a great primer to perusing the pretty images contained in the Kimbell designs.

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