Renzo Piano: 'Buildings Are Like Children - You Want Them to Have a Happy Life'
"I build flying vessels," says the Pritzker Prize-winning Italian architect Renzo Piano, recalling some of his most iconic buildings: the Shard in London, the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco and Paris's beloved Centre Pompidou. All distinct, many groundbreaking, but each linked in his mind by a conceptual thread that ties into the works he is busy finalising as we speak: a mixed retail and business square at the centre of London's regeneration of Paddington; and a development that is part of Monaco's €2bn project to extend its coastline 15 acres into the Mediterranean. Piano is all smiles under silver-rimmed glasses and a sweep of white hair. The mere mention of one of his buildings sets him off at 100 miles an hour: anecdotes, laughter and memories spill from him in a soft Italian lilt. He is honest, humble and at times dreamily poetic about his work, but at 83 there's a searing intellect behind those intense blue eyes that remains razor sharp.