Renzo Piano and RPBW: the Fil Rouge of contemporary architecture

RPBW, Renzo Piano,



Between 9 December 2023 and 13 January 2024 Galerie d'Architecture in Paris presents an extraordinary exhibition about Renzo Piano and Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW) entitled "Fil Rouge", offering an overview of half a century of work by Renzo Piano and his studio, redefining the canons of contemporary architecture and revealing the fil rouge or common thread running through all their projects.

Renzo Piano and RPBW: the Fil Rouge of contemporary architecture

The exhibition that opened recently at La Galerie d'Architecture in Paris celebrates fifty years of innovation, collaboration and transformation on the part of Renzo Piano and Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW), the studio the architect founded in 1981 with offices in Genoa, Italy and Paris, France. Multidisciplinary partnership is the key to understanding RPBW’s modus operandi, revolutionising the approach to architecture, which is no longer treated as an individual act but as a participatory choral experience. At Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW), the boundaries between disciplines disappear, and the acts of imagining, designing, calculating and building become integral parts of a single world-renowned workshop.

Their starting points, identified in the exhibition as “Prehistory”, were the Italian architect’s experiences with his brother Ermanno’s construction firm in the late 1970s. At that time of experimentation in construction, the search for free, flexible spaces with an emphasis on transparency and light led Renzo Piano to prefer lightweight industrial constructions. This was the time of the "microsheds" for the technical studio project in Erzelli, Genoa or the tense membranes of the pavilion in Osaka, years in which the architect’s ongoing research into optimisation of form and innovative materials was just emerging.

Simple, flexible, interactive displays allow visitors to read every project as a chapter or a voyage through fluid spaces and bold architectural solutions. In this way, for example, between 1981 and 1987, Dominique de Ménil’s desire to use daylight to exhibit his art collection offered Renzo Piano an opportunity to reconsider the concept of the museum, continuing the research he began at the Beaubourg in Paris. The result was the "leaf", a sculptured ferrocement element reflecting the sun’s rays, serving the dual function of filter for light and heat screen.

More recently, the “scandalously beautiful”, hospital requested by Italian doctor Gino Strada, the paediatric surgery centre in Entebbe, Uganda built between 2013-2020 for the Italian NGO Emergency, underlined RPBW’s commitment to sustainable use of resources. Entebbe hospital also offers an example of architecture combining local culture with energy conservation and ingenious design, featuring a rammed earth brick structure reinforced and waterproofed with special patented methods and sheltered by a roof in which a grid of metal tubes supports a series of photovoltaic panels.

Recent works include the "CERN Science Gateway" in Geneva, 2018-2023, a suspended bridge that renews its dialogue with the landscape around it to become the true backbone generating the project. Through these projects and many more, the exhibition reveals the constant "fil rouge" running through the work of Renzo Piano and RPBW, casting light on their combination of technological innovation and artistic sensibility and presenting architectural projects that have become community facilities, seamlessly integrated into the cities around them or acting as drivers of urbanity.

(Agnese Bifulco)

Images courtesy of RPBW and La Galerie d'Architecture

Renzo Piano Building Workshop
Le fil rouge

Exhibition from 08/12/2023 to 13/01/2024
Location: La Galerie d'Architecture, 11 rue des blancs manteaux - 75004 Paris http://www.galerie-architecture.fr/

01 courtesy © Fondazione Renzo Piano/Studio Piano
02 Renzo Piano Building Workshop & Studio TAMassociati, architects - Children's Surgical Hospital in Entebbe, Uganda photo © Emmanuel Museruka - Malaika Media
03 Renzo Piano Building Workshop, architects in collaboration with Betaplan (Athens) - Stravros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre - Athens photo © Michel Denancé
04 Piano & Fitzgerald, architects - The Menil Collection Houston (Texas - USA) photo © Paul Hester - Paul Hester Photography
05 Renzo Piano Building Workshop, architects - Tribunal de Paris et la Maison des Avocats Paris, France photo © Michel Denancé
06 Renzo Piano Building Workshop, architects in collaboration with Brodbeck Roulet Architectes Associés (Geneva) CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) phto © Michel Denancé


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