renowned architect reflects on his craft.
Together on a round-the-world sea journey, journalist Carlo Piano and his father, Renzo, kept a diary of thoughts and observations as they pursued Renzo’s dream of finding Atlantis. Published as a kind of conversation, their alternating entries cohere into a luminous meditation on beauty, architecture, nature, and creativity. Though Carlo is skeptical, Renzo defends his goal: “I say Atlantis exists, Carlo, and even if it doesn’t, we should still look for it. Because it is a beautiful idea, the ideal destination no matter the journey.” Onboard a ship tasked with updating nautical maps, the Pianos set sail from Genoa, crossing roiling seas and dead calms, stopping at sites where Renzo has designed structures: an airport in Osaka Bay, the California Academy of Sciences, the New York Times offices, the new Whitney Museum, the Shard in London, the expansion of the Morgan Library, the Pompidou Center, Rome’s Auditorium (“a city of music,” Renzo says), and Potsdamer Platz, which Renzo describes as “a bit repetitive, monotonous”—one of several architectural mistakes. Throughout, Carlo dubs his father the Explorer, the Surveyor, the Constructor, the Old Man, and the Measurer, labels that speak to Renzo’s multifaceted interests. “To measure is to gesture towards knowledge, to attempt to understand,” Renzo explains. Besides surveying the land, “I also measure the many angles and points of the sea, too. I measure everything.” Beyond measuring, he notes that he learns about a place “by entering into dialogue with it, listening to it, conversing with it, walking it, exploring its terrain.” Music, art, film, literature, and science, as well as the needs of the community, all shape his work. The two men’s musings are interlaced with memories of their childhoods, professional collaborations, and personal friendships—such as Renzo’s with Italo Calvino, whose sensibility echoes in the volume’s radiant prose.
An intimate and insightful chronicle of exploration and revelation.