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Thursday 1st October 2009
Renzo Piano at Cersaie 2009 - LECTIO MAGISTRALIS
The architect’s studio is a kind of atelier where people, tools and materials are attributed the same importance as ideas. Because “doing is thinking”. This, in the final analysis, is what Renzo Piano sees as “Creating architecture”, the title of the conference organised at Cersaie 2009.
The event saw enormous participation of international journalists during the press conference preceding the keynote address at 11.00 a.m. and attracted an attendance in the Palazzo dei Congressi that exceeded all expectations. Attendance was in fact so high that the entire capacity of the Palazzo dei Congressi was not sufficient to accommodate all participants even though all the rooms in the building were used and the event was screened on closed-circuit television in the Architecture Gallery and the Press Office in the exhibition centre. For reasons of safety it was necessary to refuse admission to many members of the public and the organisers of Cersaie sincerely regretted being unable to accommodate everyone who wanted to attend. A debt of gratitude is owed to the law enforcement services for their professionalism and commitment. For those who were unable to attend the keynote address, during the next few days photos from the event will be shown on the site www.cersaie.it.
“Architecture is the profession of creating, and this also means taking risks,” said Aldo Colonetti in his introduction to the keynote address, after Confindustria Ceramica Chairman Franco Manfredini noted that “this is an event of extraordinary importance for Cersaie and for the city of Bologna”. Renzo Piano’s advice for young people studying architecture is to “live, travel and observe”.
Architecture is the profession of an “adventurer”, repeated the famous Genoese architect several times, a dangerous profession for those who undertake it but one that offers the opportunity to come into contact with different worlds, people and situations. It is a profession of art and adventure on various levels: technological, humanistic – because buildings are designed and built for human beings – and the more poetic and imaginative level. When architecture responds to both practical needs and expectations and desires, it becomes something extraordinary. Because buildings not only meet technical and technological criteria, but also celebrate aspirations and desires. Displaying images of various works carried through over the years, Piano expounded his idea of architecture, which appears to merge with his vision of life itself. In order to “create architecture”, Piano explained, one can start out from a vision and progress to the construction, or proceed the other way round. “My father was a builder so I grew up on his building sites, and the miracle of building is something that stays with you,” Piano said. “These are my roots,” he continued, then went on to stress the importance of being able to listen. A continuous dialogue is essential, not only with the people involved in the various projects but also with other fields of art and design so as to learn from the abilities of others and from other fields of knowledge and expertise. Without shutting oneself off in a self-referential vision of architecture. For Piano artisan skill has the same value as science.Creating architecture also means understanding that all creative effort must improve, transform and describe the world through tools and practical solutions that make the concrete realisation of an idea possible. For example creating a work from the observation of places and nature. Discovering how certain geographies and given topographies or existing materials contain within themselves the seeds of clearly defined architectural characteristics. Fundamental qualities therefore include not only a predilection for observing reality, but also curiosity towards human beings and their way of living. For example in cities: for Renzo Piano the city is the venue for exchange and creative stimuli, the place where everything happens.
The city is the result of various stratifications over time, each of which must lend value to the previous level. The city expresses the idea of openness and tolerance, the same qualities that derive from Piano’s life experience. “I graduated just before 1968, a time of great yearning,” he explains. This sentiment is reflected in his idea of architecture and in works like the Beaubourg, a place that for the first time became an accessible place, a factory, in open dispute with those who wanted it to be a cultural centre that would intimidate potential users.
With Beaubourg the sacred and profane intermingle. The museum is transformed into a part of the city, itself a collector’s piece. Architecture is creation and art, but above all the capacity to transform the world, to create languages, starting out from contingent needs. Which today are those that derive from the awareness that “the Earth is fragile” and that it is our duty to construct buildings with this in mind. Seeking where possible to use materials that respect the environmental balance. One of these is ceramic. As Piano stressed, it is a material with enormous appeal. “It is ancient, it comes from the earth and returns to the earth, but above all it has characteristics of strength, durability, unlimited colour potential and the capacity to reflect light, making it functionally perfect and extraordinary in various situations.” To illustrate this, Piano mentioned the skyscraper where the New York Times is headquartered, where white ceramic elements were used to make optimal use of light and the sun’s rays.
The challenge is to create buildings that are less “violent” in terms of their energy requirements and which are capable of achieving economies in the use of sources.At the same time it is essential not to lose contact with human beings and their requirements. In other words, the architect is part anthropologist, part scientist and part adventurer. As Piano repeatedly affirmed, the construction of a building is like “crossing the Far West”: dangers and unforeseen situations may lie just around the corner, but the rewards are so much greater if the final result not only creates something useful but is able to change the world.The meeting between Cersaie and Renzo Piano, between Confindustria Ceramica and Fondazione Piano, is part of the programme of support for young architects which will continue for three years.