Simanaitis Says

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I HAVE LONG been fond of architectural models. In fact, several have made appearances here at SimanaitisSays: “Edo Toggles and Models,” “The Village of Peter Fritz,” and “FLW at MoMA Part 2. There’s something aesthetically approachable about a model that I miss in its full-size counterpart.

As an example, here’s an imaginary “Island,” at 1:1000 scale, of 102 significant designs by one of the most highly regarded of the world’s living architects.

Renzo Piano’s Island displays 102 of his architectural wonders. This and other images from Dezeen, October 2, 2018.

This modeling tour de force appeared as part of “Renzo Piano: The Art of Making Buildings,” an exhibition that ran September 15, 2018, through January 20, 2019, at London’s Royal Academy of Arts.

Renzo Piano, Genoa-born 1937, Italian architect. Winner of the Pritzker Prize, 1998, considered the Nobel Prize of architecture.

Among Piano’s works are the Centre George Pompidou, Paris (co-designer); International Terminal, Kansai International Airport; Ferrari’s Maranello wind tunnel; Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz; The New York Times Building, New York City; and The Shard, London.

The tallest building modeled is The Shard, 2012, a 98-story glass-clad pyramidal tower in Southwark, London. To its right in the background on the Island is The New York Times Building, New York City, 2007.

The 102 structures in the model include 88 already completed and 14 others in progress. The Island features a lagoon with Piano’s artfully curved Ushibuka Bridge, (linking three islands in Japan’s Amakusa Archipelago) as well as the San Nicola Football Stadium in Bari, Italy (and in the east of the Island). The Island’s smallest structure is the Diogene micro house that Piano built on the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein, Germany.

The Royal Academy of Arts exhibition also included sketches, documentation and other memorabilia of Piano projects.

Above, The Shard, a view from St. Thomas Street, London. Below, San Francisco’s California Academy of Sciences. Images from Royal Academy of Arts.

The Renzo Piano Building Workshop designed and constructed the Island for the Royal Academy of Arts exhibition over a two-year period. Other buildings modeled along its thoroughfares are the Mercedes-Benz Design Center in Sindelfingen, Germany; the Bercy 2 Shopping Centre in Paris; Los Angeles’s not-yet-completed Academy Museum of Motion Pictures; and the Eolic Windmill in Genoa, Piano’s hometown. The Island is complete with roads, trees, slopes, and hillocks.

And, of course, there’s the stunning architecture of Renzo Piano. What fun to visit! And how approachable! ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2019


  1. jlalbrecht64
    January 22, 2019

    Is the shape of the island unique or based on some actual island (minus the south “foot”).

    • simanaitissays
      January 22, 2019

      Both Dezeen and the Royal Academy of Arts call it an “imaginary” Island. I suspect its shape was determined by exhibition criteria, the models to be included, and aesthetics.

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