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Renzo Piano

A10 Piano Player Number Two - Joost Moolhuijzen

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Something a little bit different this time. A couple months ago, Indira van ‘t Klooster, editor-in-chief of A10 magazine contacted me asking if I would be interested in making some cartoons for a series of interviews with different architects they were featuring this year. Yes, A10 is that magazine founded a decade ago by Arjan Groot and Hans Ibelings, the man who not only wrote Supermodernism, but also a series of articles on comics and architecture back in the 90s), so, how could I say no?. It was a little thight for me to get to the first one, with Jürgen Mayer H (been there already, in any case), so we skipped ahead directly to Joost Moolhuijzen, the partner at Renzo Oiano’s workshop who was in charge of the Shard (yes, Piano and the Shard have also been guest stars here , thanks to Uncube . For those of you who want to check on the real thing, here’s a video of Joost himself speaking about the Shard at the BBC. Below, you have a taste of the interview itself. For the rest, you’ll have to buy the magazine (what are you waiting for?).

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It’s rare that an architect gets to explain his own project on CNN, but just that happened to Joost Moolhuijzen in 2012. You may not remember his name, but the name of his latest project is certainly familiar: The Shard. As senior partner at Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW), Moolhuijzen was responsible for this remarkable London skyscraper. Despite not having his own practice, it seems his being willing to pay the price of never becoming well known publicly has its benefits.

While many young architects dream of creating famous buildings the world over following graduation, some of them actually do it. Joost Moolhuijzen joined RPBW at the age of 30 and became partner at the age of 37, after he had successfully headed the Debis Building, part of the Daimler-Benz project at Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz. We meet in a café on a rainy day in Amsterdam. He and his wife, who also works at RPBW, are in town for a short family visit. Moolhuijzen begins explaining how the ideas of Piano have gradually become his own. Also, we’re talking different scales than are usually seen in A10. ‘Once we were 150 people, but our natural size is 100, like we are now,’ says Moolhuijzen. ‘That means we’re still small enough to be picky in the projects we accept, and big enough to deal with the larger projects.’

So RPBW is critical in which projects to take on, or not?

‘Definitely,’ assures Moolhuijzen, ‘we do not simply follow the money in Dubai, China or Korea. We seek jobs that contribute to urban sustainability. We once had a job just outside Paris, but gradually it became clear that the project had too little in terms of urban capacity. New buildings should improve the existing situation with regard to public transport, housing and public space.’The Shard, sometimes criticized as an autistic high-rise funded by sheikhs from Qatar, he actually finds to be an improvement for the district. ‘The underlying station was rebuilt, while more and varied functions appeared on the ground floor. People have benefited from it. We preferably build on brownfields rather than greenfields. That is ultimately more sustainable.’ […]

Joost Moolhuijzen :  ‘The Piano Player’,  A10 magazine #57. May-June 2014.

ShardnadoClick to enlarge

“Why is it the tallest? I don’t really remember. I don’t really care. It was actually taller at the beginning, it was 400 meters, but then aeronautics came and they said that you can not because you interfere with the flight of the air planes. So we broke it. The building is now 310 meters but it is still designed to go up to 400 meters. Many people still believe it is unfinished… this idea is part of the game in some way,” says Piano in the 20 minute interview.

 “As an architect you have a very dangerous job to perform. Dangerous for you but even more dangerous for other people. Because if you do something wrong it is forever. I think it [The Shard] is fine. I stopped crossing my fingers only a few months ago. You do everything you can to make it right but the truth is that you only understand at the end when it is built if it is right or wrong. I was not very good at school. I grew up with the idea that what you do is fine but it is probably not good enough. And so even now at 75 I still feel that every time I do something right it is a miracle. I don’t live in the sensation that everything I do is right. It is always a great surprise.”

Responding to criticisms that The Shard is a symbol of the welath dividie in London, Piano says that only 50 or 60 of the 10,000 people that will visit The Shard every day could be classified as rich. But he agrees that £25 is too much to charge to access the viewing platform at the top of the building.  “£25 is too much but in this town everything costs too much… I agree it is too expensive. Because one of the aims of this building is to give London back to the people and to be public. But this is the normal price. If you go to the top of the Empire State building you spend more than that.”

Er, Renzo, let me remind you. It’s that tall because you all wanted to make A SHITLOAD OF MONEY.

22 Feb

And, by the way, a ticket to the top of the Empire State building is $25/£16 which is a lot cheaper than going to the top of the Shard.

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Nuff Said.

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