Renzo Piano, constrained

New work by Renzo Piano in Paris. (Foundation Jerome Seydoux/Pathe)

New work by Renzo Piano in Paris. (Foundation Jerome Seydoux/Pathe)

A friend sent me from HuffPost this image of a new “building” in Paris by starchitect Renzo Piano (what a name!), sure that it would raise my dander sky high. But while the structure certainly confirms the stupidity of modern architecture, as if any such confirmation were needed by now, it has gracefully penned itself in the center of the block, and cannot be seen much by passersby. It does not disrupt the street, and yet through the front portico you can get a hint of its monstrosity yearning to escape – maybe generating a sigh of relief or two, perhaps even some pity. I’d say that if all modernism were equally constrained, or equally modest in its aspiration to destroy beautiful city settings, then modernism would not have raised the worldwide uproar it has. (Huh? … Only kidding.)

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy,, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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6 Responses to Renzo Piano, constrained

  1. Sorry to say, but talking about Renzo Piano as a modernist architect means ignoring Renzo Piano’s work (and the joke on the name is further evidence).
    One may neither like this building (I don’t) nor Renzo Piano, but “stupidity” is something really far from Piano’s work so far.
    And modernism as well


    • Stupidity may not fully embrace modern architecture and its flaws, but it is one of the more benign words I’d use. What can you say about an architecture that most people think is ugly, is wedded to an orthodoxy so stultifying that it would make a fundamentalist blush and yet which is impossibly difficult for modernists to obey. Not highly intelligent, you might say, but yet it has controlled architecture’s establishment for many decades. How so? Well, that takes us in the direction of much harsher words.


      • I’m not saying I disagree with this, although a distinction between modernist urbanism and architecture would help a lot here. Put in other words, I do agree that modernist urbanism has been one of the reasons for the lost of some layers of urban quality, whereas modernist architecture has encompassed both the best and the worst of XX century.
        Still, Renzo Piano is not a modernist architect and has never been


      • Interesting, Simone. If Piano is not a modernist, what is he? I realize he is not what you might call a “traditional” modernist such as Mies or Corbusier. Piano’s work falls into the category of modernism that reacted against the postmodern critique of the modernism of those founders. Over the years, many modernists among my readers have attempted to convince me that I must be more specific about what kind of modernism I discuss, but I think it is legitimate to classify all strains and offshoots under the rhetorical umbrella of the term modernism. Whereas experts who already know what type of modernism I refer to might be pleased if I were to be more particular, it would probably just confuse the laymen who read my writing but who aren’t as familiar with the different modernisms as the modernist experts are. I believe that sowing confusion is the unacknowledged purpose of requests that I emphasize distinctions among types of modernism, in line with its deconstructivist bent. However, I will continue to use the word modernism as most laymen understand it, which serves to clarify rather than confuse my “discourse.”


  2. My eyes are bleeding….


  3. Mchan says:

    yuck I wonder where it is I’ll check it out but it looks really hideous like horrible leech or a stomach.


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