In 1971, 34-year-old Renzo Piano and his contemporaries Richard Rogers from the UK and Gianfranco Franchini from Italy pulled the rug out from under the architectural world when they were awarded the construction of the grandiose Centre Pompidou in Paris.
But, as the New York Times has said, the three young visionaries didn’t just turn the architectural world upside down, they also turned it inside out when they chose to highlight elements of the structure with color-coded ducts, pipes and wire casings for all the world to see.
The story of the Pompidou Center’s construction is one of the showpieces in “Piece by Piece,” an exhibition on Piano’s work at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) in southern Athens, which opens on Thursday, April 27, and runs through July 23.
The show has also been presented at the Gagosian Gallery in New York, as well as in Italy and China, before traveling to the Greek capital.
From the mid-1970s onward, the Italian architect’s career trajectory steadily rose, and among the many other landmark works he has designed are the Shard in London, the New York Times Building and the Whitney Museum in New York, and the SNFCC, the Greek capital’s newest cultural landmark.
The exhibition, which is on display at the SNFCC’s Lighthouse, comprises 18 installations that illustrate the history of as many projects with drawings, videos and photographs, from their conception to their completion. These include the Kansai International Airport Terminal in Osaka, Japan, and new buildings for Columbia University in New York.
But how hard is to put together an exhibition on architecture? The internationally acclaimed architect has the answer: “Nothing can really substitute actually being in the building itself, the feeling of the hybrid tex- ture of a city, the continuous stream of voices that make up the sounds of life. An architectural exhibition can, however, clearly transmit something of the complex and shared process through which the buildings we design are conceived, constructed and then inhabited… I like to think of this exhibition like a journey through space.”
“Piece by Piece,” April 27 – July 23 at the Lighthouse of the SNFCC (364 Syngrou, Kallithea, www.snfcc.org/visitors-center).