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    Renzo Piano transforms Italy's cities one shipping container at a time

    Nathan Johnson

    In August 2013 Pritzker Prize winning architect Renzo Piano was named “Senator for life” by the President of Italy and he has since been busy spending his political funds on a quest to rescue the periphery areas of Italy’s major cities.

    That quest has seen him establish a team of six young architects, changed on a yearly basis, who have spent the past 12 months under the tuition of Massimo Alvisi, Mario Cucinella and Maurizio Milan exploring alternatives for urban renewal in Italy.

    Their base, dubbed “G124” after Piano’s parliament office number in Rome, is located within the administration building of the Le Vele di Scampia, a decaying affordable housing complex in Naples that was designed in the mid '60s and has since become a symbol of failed architecture.

    From here the team will work on relaunching the local economies of Italy’s periphery suburbs through the involvement of inhabitants and the transformation of the built environment.

    Matteo Garrone’s 2008 film Gomorrah, based on the book by Roberto Saviano, was shot in Le Vele di Scampia and depicted a desolate cityscape. Image: Still from Gomorrah by Matteo Garrone
    Below: the G124 team at work.

    "Under the Viaduct" is the first project we have seen from the team and involves the reinvigoration of an area under Viadotto dei Presidenti in northeast Rome which had been abandoned for years.

    The project will include upcycled containers used to house local workshops, urban furniture made of tyres and six art installations.

    Piano commented on the first year of work for G124 and why he chose to dedicate his funds and political power into the project in “SUBURBS” magazine:

    “I was wondering: Me, an architect who reads about politics on the newspapers, what could I do for my Country? [...] I said to myself: architect is a political profession, after all the word politics is coming from polis, the city […] So my answer was: what I am going to do is a long-term project, as my role of senator for life will be […] I guess that the big project for my Country is the one that include periphery: the city is our future, the city that will be, the one that we will bequeath to our sons.”

    Images: G124

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