Renzo Piano was born in Genoa, Italy, in 1937 into a family of builders. While studying at the Politecnico di Milano, he worked in the office of Franco Albini.
In 1971, he set up the Piano & Rogers office in London together with Richard Rogers, with whom he won the competition for the Centre Pompidou. He subsequently moved to Paris. From the early 1970s to the 1990s, he worked with engineer Peter Rice, with whom he shared the Atelier Piano & Rice from 1977 to 1981.
In 1981, the Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW) was established with offices in Paris, Genoa, and New York, and a staff of 150.
Since then, the RPBW has served as the vehicle for the development of some of Piano’s most recognizable and important projects, such as:
- The International Terminal at the Kansai International Airport (1994), in Osaka, an awe-inspiring take-off and landing pier, whose design follows the movement of a wave, built on an artificial island extending into the sea;
- The Beyeler Foundation Museum (1997), in Basel, Switzerland, bathed in natural light, which inspires visitors with its pure, clean lines, its seamless integration into its surroundings, and its simple elegance;
- The Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Center (1998), in New Caledonia, a complex of ten pavilions, inspired by the local architectural tradition, remarkable for both the power it exudes, and its intimate relationship with the surrounding nature;
- The redevelopment of Potsdamer Platz (2000), in Berlin;
- The glass-walled structure of the Niccolò Paganini Auditorium (2001) in Parma, an industrial reconversion perfectly in tune with its surrounding natural environment;
- The Parco della Musica Auditorium (2002), in Rome, a powerful symbol of the union of music, urban environment and the design traditions of Western cathedrals.
- The new offices of The New York Times (2008) in Manhattan,
- The green building of the California Academy of Sciences (2008) in San Francisco,
- The iconic London Bridge Tower, better known as the Shard (2012).
He has received numerous awards and recognitions, including:
- The RIBA Royal Gold Medal (1989);
- The Kyoto Prize (1990);
- The appointment as the Goodwill Ambassador of UNESCO for Architecture (1994);
- The Praemium Imperiale (1995);
- The Pritzker Architecture Prize (1998);
- The Leone d’oro alla Carriera at the Venice Biennale (2000);
- The AIA Gold Medal (2008);
- Tthe Sonning Prize (2009).
Since 2004, he has been also working for the Renzo Piano Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of the architectural profession through educational programs and activities.
In September 2013, Renzo Piano was appointed senator for life by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano and in May 2014, he received a Columbia University Honorary Degree.