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Cheap Piano: Renzo Piano Building Workshop 1966-2008

Everybody loves the work of Renzo Piano, even his bad buildings. Until now, monographs and texts depicting the work of Piano were both expensive and outdated, highlighting popular older works of the RPBW.  Piano: Renzo Piano Building Workshop 1966-2008 is 528 pages of Renzo Piano eye candy, complete with high quality color prints of nearly every building that he has designed over the last 42 years. This text could be yours for the low cost of $26.39,which equates to a unit cost of less than .05 cents per page. For young architects on a tight library budget, this book is a must have, and supplies more than enough photographs to give one the resources necessary to study the work of this master architect.

Everyone should own this book and I’ll tell you why, below.

The first Renzo Piano project that I was introduced to in college was the Maison Hermès and instantly fell in love with Piano’s work, because  unlike other signature architects, he has the ability to produce architecture devoid of stylistic trends. His work does not bear the burden of a heavy handed signature like other famous architects. Piano’s work responds to the local culture, contextual forces and functional requirements of the program, and this is why Piano’s work is consistently new and fresh. The first reason that every architect should own this book is because Piano teaches us that the solution to architectural problems is extracted from what already exists. Architectural style and computer driven forms should not be forced upon a building. The solution is there, you just have to find it.

The state of architecture today in the United States is the many vs the few, style vs substance, black vs white, and if there were two figureheads that lead each camp, Piano would lead the white league, and let’s say Daniel Libeskind would lead the black. It is unfortunate that Philip Jodidio does not write about the value and integrity that Piano’s work gives the profession of architecture. It is unfortunate that Jodidio does not analyze each building and Piano’s process and avoidance of a particular style or design signature. In fact, Jodidio writes very little in this book, especially since the text includes German and French translations. If you are looking for a book that critiques the buildings designed by Renzo Piano, or analyzes the importance that Piano’s work plays in leading the architectural profession, then this is not the book for you. On the other hand, if you are looking for a book which documents a nearly complete body of Renzo Piano’s work with high quality photographs, then this is a must have for your library. This brings me to the second reason that you should own this book and that is that the number of color photographs printed in this book trumps all other books on the subject of Renzo Piano. This is by far the largest collection of Renzo Piano architectural imagery, and is a necessary supplemental text to support other books which discuss the design philosophy of Piano.

The third, and most important reason to own this book, is that Jodidio has created a text which fully documents the career of Piano and allows any student of architecture to track the evolution of Piano’s work and discover buildings that did not make it to the cover of Architectural Record, but remain exceptional works of architecture. One of the two projects that I find to be anexceptional example of Piano’s ability to produce architecture at a high level of design is the Maison Hermès. The Maison Hermès could easily be considered one of Piano’s many architectural masterpieces, yet is unknown to many, pictured on the left. The other project which is featured in the book is IRCAM, and is another work unknown to most, but is an example of Piano’s ability to quietly produce great architecture without a heavy handed signature, pictured on the right. This book is a record of all buildings produced by Piano, and these are only two examples of works documented in this book that remain unknown to much of the architectural public. Jodidio also documents Piano’s more famous buildings, like the recently completed New York Times building, photographed and printed in full color 8″ x 10″ prints.

Image 1: Above are two images taken from Piano: Renzo Piano Building Workshop 1966-2008. The project features many of Piano’s more famous buildings, but also supplies imagery related to forgotten projects like the Maison Hermes and IRCAM.

The book does fall short in a couple of key areas.  Like many architectural magazines and blogs, there are few plans, diagrams, sections or details featured in the book. The few that are featured are very informative and interesting, leaving the reader thirsty for more. The book only offers a superficial discussion of each building. Remember this should be viewed as a supplemental text to serious students of Piano’s work.

If you are a fan of Piano, this book is a must have, and if you have not looked at a Piano building in awhile this book will make you a fan. It is incredible to flip through 528 pages of architecture that is produced with such a high level of craft. The other incredible thing about this book is the price, thank you Taschen for somehow always finding a way to print great books at affordable prices. And thank you to those that decide to purchase Piano: Renzo Piano Building Workshop 1966-2008 from the link supplied on this site. Your support allows this site to continue to produce critical content with minimal advertisements.

Book Statistics:

Author: Philip Jodidio
Price: $26.39
Publication Date: September 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Length: 528 pages
Publisher: TASCHEN
ISBN: 3836503220
ISBN-13: 978-3836503228

Publisher Synopsis:
The array of buildings by Renzo Piano is staggering in scope and comprehensive in the diversity of scale, material, and form. He is truly an architect whose sensibilities represent the widest range of this and earlier centuries.” Such was the description of Renzo Piano given by the Pritzker Prize jury citation as they bestowed the prestigious award on him in 1998. Whereas some architects have a signature style, what sets Piano apart is that he seeks simply to apply a coherent set of ideas to new projects in extraordinarily different ways. “One of the great beauties of architecture is that each time, it is like life starting all over again,” Piano says. “Like a movie director doing a love story, a Western, or a murder mystery, a new world confronts an architect with each project.” This explains why it takes more than a superficial glance to recognize Piano`s fingerprints on such varied projects as the Pompidou Center in Paris (1971-77), the Kansai airport in Osaka, Japan (1990-94), and the Tjibaou Cultural Center in Nouméa, New Caledonia (1993-1998). This stunning monograph, illustrated by photographs, sketches, and plans, covers Piano`s career to date.

The updated publication includes new photographs of projects completed since the previous edition, such as his The New York Times Building in New York, the Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, Switzerland, The Morgan Library in New York, as well as some sneak peeks at his current projects, including the 66-story London Bridge Tower, which is set to be Europe`s tallest building.