Architect Renzo Piano Charms Press at Cersaie with Below the Belt Humor

renzo piano photo

Photo copyright Mairi Beautyman

So it's easy to fall for the Italian charm of Renzo Piano. Though maybe my crush began when I wrote about his super green California Academy of Sciences way back in 2006. Piano, recipient of the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize and principal of Renzo Piano Building Workshop, was the keynote speaker this morning in Bologna, Italy at Cersaie, by far the biggest tile show in the world. TreeHugger is here tracking down green trends as the guest of Ceramic Tiles of Italy, and got to see first hand how quickly Piano had the crowd of Italian and international press at his fingertips: "It's not just that we need to consume less, but that we need a way to get out of this tragedy of performance anxiety--the idea of making (and wanting) things bigger and BIGGER," he said.Piano began his speech saying, "I adore red tape! It tells you what to do! For example, I know the rules on ramps all around the world: Go ahead, ask me anything." He also had some advice for young architects: "Let's says it's like karaoke: They all think they are great singers, but really they are just poor, sad people...but, well, you shouldn't listen to anyone, including me, the best system is rebellion."

I was interested in his take on the current green building market, so I asked him, "Given this love of yours for bureaucracy and our current, faulty LEED rating system, what can we do to improve sustainable architecture?"

He responded:

Some people don't know that steel is typically 95 percent recycled: As I like to always say, there are three Cadillacs in every pillar. But there's only a very recent understanding that the earth is, in fact, delicate. The problem is not just cutting costs, but developing a language, and the language develops from the needs. Buildings live together with the earth, they need to breathe...there's a poetry to it.

renzo piano museum trento photo

Piano's design for the Museum of Science MUSE in Trento, Italy. Photo via

Later, when asked what he thought about a tax to get the lagging Italy up to speed with the Kyoto Protocol, Piano exclaimed, "Absolutely! If we have a tax for everyone, we are all on the same level."

Renzo is currently working on a large-scale development for Trento, Italy, focusing on energy savings. Based on a 50 kilowatt per square meter plan (that's about five times less energy consumption than a similar structure, he says), the complex will include the Museum of Science MUSE, as well as residential buildings, and is scheduled for completion in 2011.

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