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Italian architect Renzo 'inspired' by need to be green
GENOA, Italy, Dec 23 (AFP) Dec 23, 2008
Environmental protection, far from being a constraint, should be a source of inspiration, in the view of celebrated Italian architect Renzo Piano.

"Ecology can be a lovely source of inspiration and an enormous opportunity," the 71-year-old architect said in an interview at his workshop in Genoa, northwest Italy.

"Environmental constraints should not be seen as an assault on freedom. You find that the planet is vulnerable. Does this have to be a crisis?" Piano asked.

"Architects should be able to interpret the changes of their times and live with their times," said Piano, who was awarded the Pritzker Prize, considered the "Nobel" of architecture, in 1998.

His latest work, the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, received top marks from the Green Building Council, which encourages environmentally friendly architecture.

"The San Francisco museum is an interpretation of the green revolution on the march," said Piano.

The building, inaugurated in September, is bursting with ecological innovations.

Old blue jeans insulate the structure, whose roof is dotted with skylights and rimmed with solar panels that provide up to 10 percent of the site's energy needs.

The museum's "living roof," which gives off oxygen instead of absorbing heat, is a landscape of rolling green hills.

"Our duty is to translate the codes of this ecological language in a poetic way, to marry beauty with respect for the environment," said the slim architect, who sports a salt and pepper beard.

"I believe in the poetic benefits of lightness and transparency," he added.

Piano's workshop in Genoa, built about 15 years ago on a cliff overlooking the sea, has a glass roof that lets in sunlight for heat and light.

"It's December and there's no need for heating," enthused Piano, whose most famous projects include the Pompidou Centre in Paris, Kansai International Airport in Osaka, Japan, and the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas.

Piano divides his time between Genoa, Paris and New York, where he has just opened an office to coordinate his many projects in the United States.

Among these are an extension of the campus of New York's Columbia University and a museum at Harvard University in Boston.

"The architect should feel responsible towards the environment, all the more so since ... he will need to continue to look after his work all through his life," Piano said.

"I myself spend a good part of my life travelling to visit my creations scattered around the world," he said, referring to them as his "children."

"I give birth to buildings, after which they have to lead their own lives," he said, adding however: "When I finish a work, I always wonder, is it going to be happy?"

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