Renzo Piano: The Art of Making Buildings at the Royal Academy of Arts
The three rooms of Renzo Piano: The Art of Making Buildings are arranged like a triptych: two elegant and light-filled rooms of the architect’s best-known buildings flank a central darker space in which a double-channel video is playing. The film combines shots of Piano speaking eloquently about his designs with beautiful abstracted shots of his work.
The artist is a softly spoken man with a charming accent. He imparts wisdom with every sentence, slowly sharing his beliefs about architecture and its power to change people’s lives. There is undoubtedly truth in what he says, and you want to believe him.
However, there is something a little cold about both the video and the work on display in the other rooms. Everything is calm and collected, precise and elegant.
The presentation of Piano’s designs is certainly beautiful: each building gets its own neat white table arranged with photographs, mock-ups and documentation, while spindly models are suspended overhead. There are four pale canvas chairs at each table, but the displays aren’t quite inviting enough to encourage you to take a seat and dive in.
For Piano aficionados – of which there are undoubtedly many – this exhibition will be an absolute dream, but for beginners, it’s hard to know where to start. There aren’t many photographs of the final buildings, making it hard to imagine how the models and sketches turned out if you aren’t familiar with the project. Establishing scale and imagining how the spaces are experienced also becomes challenging.
Where a building is well-known, such as London’s Shard or Paris’s Centre Georges Pompidou, the display feels more illuminating, and anyone with a love of architectural models will be in seventh heaven. It’s just a shame that the overall experience of the exhibition isn’t more accessible and, perhaps, more human.
Renzo Piano: The Art of Making Buildings is at the Royal Academy of Arts from 15th September until 20th January 2019. For further information visit the exhibition’s website here.