Play Your Own Kind of Music: Lessons From Renzo Piano & Tadao Ando

Renzo Piano & Richard Rogers: Centre Pompidou

The first time I heard of architect Renzo Piano, it was in connection with his building-turned-inside out, the Center Pompidou in Paris (designed in collaboration with this year’s AIA Gold Medalist, Richard Rogers). Renzo, as he is known among architects, literally thought outside the box for this one. He reveals what’s normally hidden, the infrastructure and systems of the building. Renzo illustrated that it’s possible to find beauty in the pragmatic and the industrial.

Renzo reveals something else, too. On later seeing more of his works, I realized that he really considers the place and the context.  He responds to the Genius Loci, the essence and stories of the site itself. He is interested in using a material and formal vocabulary appropriate to the location. His work explores how materials meet–finding the beauty and delicacy in their connection and layering them. The designs are intelligent, environmentally responsible and use cutting-edge technology.

Renzo Piano plays with many materials to shape light and shadow.  If materials are like instruments, then Renzo is like a composer using many instruments to make beautiful music together.

Top to Bottom by Renzo Piano Building Workshop: Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre, Centre Culturel Jean-Marie Tjibaou (drawing/photo), California Academy of Sciences

On the other hand, architect Tadao Ando has chosen one material, his instrument of choice is concrete and he also uses it to play with light and shadow. Ando has taken a material that’s usually associated with a foundation or a retaining wall and given it an architectural life force. His work is very sculptural.  Even though his works are mostly concrete, in Ando’s hands this normally hard, “cold” material becomes soft, rich, elegant, and even ethereal.  Ando is like the cellist Yo-Yo Ma, he picked one instrument to master and makes mesmerizing music with it.

Top to Bottom by Tadao Ando: Church of Light, Water Temple, Benesse House Museum

At first glance, Renzo and Ando are very different from one another. Ando appears to carve and sculpt, while Renzo constructs, but both shape light and shadow with mastery and delight. Both look to the context and create inspiring spaces for people that can take your breath away. Both of these architects have impacted people and the built environment in their own way.  Each of them plays their own kind of music.

Tadao Ando: Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

We, too, aspire to move and touch people in our own distinct way.  In our work, we operate at the intersection of Brand and the Built Environment. As the leading designers of Strategic Branded Experiences, we express a company or community’s personality, mission, vision, values, and DNA by making physical space tell a story—sometimes we describe this as making the walls talk–but also by considering the science and psychology around what makes a place collaborative, healthy, comfortable and enjoyable. We design a sense of purpose into place. We inspire people to love what do and where they do it.

Top to Bottom by DxDempsey: Fidelity Bank Pittston Branch, Munley Law Offices, Moses Taylor Foundation Headquarters, Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania Store, Entry to the Iron District (part of the Iron District Comprehensive Plan)

At the end of the day, in the process of designing a building or interior, we have found that we not only do we make our own kind of music, but then we put words to it. We are both the composer and lyricists and every song is unique.  In collaboration with our clients, we create beautiful, sustainable places based on research and science that tell a story.  We are marching to our own tune.

That’s a great message for life, too.  When we all play our own kind of music and march to our own tune, the results bring diversity and creativity into the world. Wouldn’t it be painfully boring if we were all the same?  Imagine if the only cookie that existed was a Nilla Wafer.  No chocolate chip.  No macaroons. No Nutter Butters.  Or imagine if the only color in the world was hearing-aid beige. No red.  No blue.  No ROY G. BIV or RGB or CMYK.  Being different is what adds zest to the flavor of life.  Every person, every city, and every business is different and has a unique story.  When you are ready to tell yours, we’ll be here to help you compose and put words to your own, distinct tune!




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