Italian architect Renzo Piano, known for great icons such as the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and The Shard in London, has always his heart trained on home. Genoa, Italy’s sixth largest city, is where Piano grew up and its influence on his work is undeniable. Genoa, the capital of Liguria, is fringed by mountains and sea. Its distinct coastal aesthetic is evident in the nautical nature of Piano’s work, echoing his long-lasting love of the sea. Now, in the aftermath of disaster, Piano has vowed to give back to the region that forged his creative spirit.
On 14 August, this year, a section of the Morandi bridge in Genoa collapsed. Vehicles plunged down 45-metres when a large section of the bridge gave way, leading to the deaths of 43 people. Piano immediately pledged to redesign the structure, telling Observer magazine that the new bridge would serve as a memorial while bringing a “positive moment of unity and cooperation”.
“It must be a place where people can recognise the tragedy in some way, while also providing a great entrance to the city. All this must be done without any sign of rhetoric – that would be the worst trap. But I think we will stay away [from that] and instead try to express real pride and values. That is what Genoa deserves.”
Piano states that reconstruction is an incredibly delicate process. The bridge needs to be a hybrid of pragmatism and symbolism, without mimicking the old bridge. Architects must reconstruct the bridge quickly, while also utilising a well-considered, long-lasting design that won’t repeat its predessor’s mistakes.
In the past, Piano has made great contributions his home city. In 2016, Renzo Piano led reconstruction efforts after an earthquake devastated Genoa, which measured 6.2 on the Richter Scale. Outside of large-scale disasters, Piano has also contributed to notable landmarks of the coastal region. To name a few, Piano designed the Genoa Aquarium, Europe’s largest aquarium, the Biosphere the Porto Antico. Recently, London’s Royal Academy held an exhibit showcasing an “imaginary island” that brought together 102 of Piano’s projects from the past 50 years.
Genoa’s government have accepted Piano’s offer to design a new bridge. According to The Express, the collapse was a result of the original construction team’s failure to consider using earthquake-proof materials. Since the bridge’s collapse, a 12-month state of emergency has been declared in the region as reconstruction efforts are underway.