Young talents are my project, the guiding star in this adventure of being a senator, and elsewhere.” Renzo Piano wrote this in the newspaper La Repubblica in November, to comment on his decision to donate his salary as a lifetime senator to a ‘bottega’ of six young architects asked to find ways to ‘mend’ the peripheries of our cities.

The commitment of the architect from Genoa began well before his appointment to the Senate, in the concrete form of Fondazione Renzo Piano, which for over ten years – it was founded in 2004 – has welcomed young talents to nurture them in the ‘craft’ of architecture.

Some numbers: 140 students have participated to date, relying on grants for six-month internships in the RPBW studios; 1200 young people, just in 2014, from elementary and secondary schools, have visited the educational workshops organized at the headquarters of the Foundation; 6 monographs have been published to narrate the extraordinary history of iconic projects, through the voices of their protagonists; 2 editions of the biennial Premio Fondazione have been held to recognize the works of Italian architects (also residing abroad) under the age of 40; 6 encounters (starting in 2008) have been held with Renzo Piano, annual events in the workshop to talk with students of the leading schools of architecture and engineering in Italy.

The goal of all these activities is to transmit design experience, bridging the gap between academic studies and professional practice, in keeping with the principle of ‘learning by doing.’ But also to narrate the beauty of the craft of the architect, through a voyage across 50 years of the art of building (the span of the professional career of Renzo Piano). This leads to another important area of action of the Foundation, alongside education: to conserve and make accessible the project documents (drawings, sketches, models, detail studies…) accumulated across decades of work.

Not just a Renaissance ‘bottega’ of the 2000s, a place to learn an art, but also a place of memory, to share the history of every project. The latest effort is the publication slated for September of the ‘ship’s log’ that narrates the activity of Piano’s studio since 1965, with the first projects, all the way to worksites still in progress in 2015.

And at Villa Nave – this is the name of the headquarters of the Foundation on the sea, near the studio in Genoa – once again it is time to set off to discover an extraordinary voyage that narrates the craft (and the passion) of a great architect.


Text by Laura Ragazzola
Photos by Publifoto Stefano Goldberg, courtesy of Fondazione Renzo Piano

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Room 1 of the archives at Villa Nave, headquarters of Fondazione Renzo Piano.
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Aerial view of the exterior of the building facing the sea.
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Drawing by Shunji Ishida/Renzo Piano – B.W. srl Building Workshop of the IBM Traveling Pavilion, 1982-1986, RPBW Renzo Piano Building Workshop Architects.