i-ItalyNY - 5thBirthday Special Issue. The Best of i-Itay - page 36

36 |
i-Italy Magazine
| Special Issue | Winter 2017-2018
style
Far West, New Jersey, the rest of the
world. Way out in the distance is Los
Angeles, and if you look carefully, you
can even see the Far East. That’s the
idea: one side of the building talks to
the city and the other side talks to the
rest of the world.
One of the most innovative things
about the museum is the way in
which the light comes in. You sort
of direct the light.
Architecture is all about light, espe-
cially when you’re designing a mu-
seum, because museums are about
viewingworksof art.Of course the top
floor isnaturally lit fromabove andon
the other floors the light comes from
the sides. Light is probably the most
immaterial yetmost importantmate-
rial in architecture.
Absolutely. This area used to be
the outskirts of New York, the
meatpacking district. Now it’s a
new center of the City. This theme
is very dear to you, finding ways
to change the outskirts. I under-
stand that when you were made a
“life senator” by the President of
the Republic in Italy, you trans-
formed your study in the senate
into a workshop in which you had
about 30architectsworkingon the
theme of peripheries: how tomake
thembetter, how tomake themliv-
able.Wouldyousay they’re thereal
frontier of architecture?
Defining the relationshipbetween the
center and the periphery is a constant
preoccupation. Peripheries are not
suburbs. A suburb is a kind of white,
drab place. But the real problemwith
peripheries is that they desire to be-
come urban, and they should. They
must become real urban spaces. But
at the same time, you must be care-
ful not to transform city centers into
shopping centers. This is one of the
problems that exists in transforma-
tion, particularly inWestChelsea. Ina
way, its successmay be a bit toomuch
tohandle, sowehave tobe careful. Yet
New York has a tough character, so I
think it will be fine. The High Line is
a very popular place, the park on the
Hudson is fundamental, and soon the
buildings in front of theWhitney will
come down and this will become a
park. But the museum is a very im-
portant element. TheWhitneyhouses
the history of American art. All art is
free, but American art is particularly
free, a bit wild, a bit impolite. It’s all
about freedom and strength. I am
slightly worried about this place be-
coming too fashionable, too much
about the ephemeral—yet I imagine
it will be fine.
What’s your relationship to New
York? Do you like working here?
How do you reshape a city while at
thesametimeremainingfaithfulto
its original character?
Well, you don’t work in a city to
change the city. Honestly, that’s going
a bit too far. An architect can’t expe-
rience a city as a tourist would. You
have to know the city, you have to be
what you are doing. When you work
inBerlin, youmust becomeaBerliner.
When you work in San Francisco or
LosAngeles, youmust become aCali-
fornian. InNewYork you have to be a
NewYorker. Not pretend to be aNew
Yorker but be one. You have to listen
to the spirit of the City.
I love working here. And of course
working on the Whitney was great,
but we are also working on the ex-
tension of Columbia University on
Broadwayand125th.And that’s avery
big commitment. We’re inventing an
urban campus for the 21st Century.
An urban campus is a completely dif-
ferent story; it’s not about putting a
fence arounda college. It’smoreopen,
more accessible, while still defending
the dignity of a campus. We are also
building a school of art that’s nearly
complete, a conference center and
many other buildings. The idea is to
invent an urban campus that mixes
academic life with city life, so that
the campus doesn’t become a kind of
“happyland.”
Architecturally speaking, youcan’t
rely on making Roman or Gothic or
Greek-style buildings anymore; you
have to speak our language, you have
to be contemporary.
ww
*
Associate Professor of Italian and
Director of Casa Italiana Zerilli-
Marimò of the New York University.
ww
An architect can’t
experience a city as
a tourist would. You
have to know the
city, you have to be
what you are doing.
In New York you
have to be a New
Yorker. Not pretend
to be a New Yorker
but be one. You have
to listen to the spirit
of the City.
ww
The newWhitney
is a building that
welcomes every-
body, just like a
piazza. It’s a very
Italian concept.
The terraces of
Renzo Piano’s new
Withney Museum
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