Dezeen Magazine

Renzo Piano confirms he will design Genoa's new bridge but says "it's complicated"
Photo is by Francois Mori

Renzo Piano confirms he will design Genoa's new bridge but says "it's complicated"

Architect Renzo Piano says the Italian government has accepted his invitation to replace the collapsed Ponte Morandi bridge in his hometown of Genoa.

Speaking to Dezeen at a preview of his new exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, Piano said that he will develop the replacement for the 1960s-built concrete structure, which formed part of the A10 motorway before collapsing on 14 August.

"But of course it's complicated," he explained. "I know that everything is complicated, and in my country it is especially complicated, but it doesn't matter, you have to do what you can do."

Piano's offer to design a "beautiful" replacement bridge came shortly after the accident, which occurred during extreme weather conditions and killed 43 people.

Bridge must be built quickly

The Italian architect told Dezeen the new bridge will need to be delivered quickly, but that a brand new design is important to ensure long life.

"It needs to be a mix of many things: practical, pragmatic, social, symbolic and of course poetic," he said. "That's why reconstruction is so delicate. You cannot repeat, you cannot mimic. But you need to go fast. You need to do something with a very long long life."

Piano offered to replace the Ponte Morandi bridge, which collapsed in a storm. Photo is courtesy of Getty Images

"A bridge should never fall, it should be designed to last 1,000 years," he continued. "That's perfectly feasible, technically speaking, if you use steel, you add the right protection and you make every piece accessible, so that you can repair or repaint every five to 10 years."

Piano touched by response to tragedy

Renzo Piano: The Art of Making Buildings opens at the RA this weekend, showcasing drawings and models of 16 of the architect's most important projects, including the Centre Pompidou in Paris, The Shard in London and the Whitney Museum in New York.

During a preview tour of the show, Piano told journalists that he had been touched by their response to the Ponte Morandi collapse.

"I want to thank everybody for the expressions of sorrow, of participation, that you made," he said. "I’m touched because it is an important thing. It's a tragedy."

"When a bridge falls, it falls at least twice – it falls physically and it falls symbolically. So the reconstruction of the bridge is fundamental," he added.

"I know that this moment of reconstruction will become a moment of pride."

Collapse blamed on construction team

A 12-month state of emergency has been declared in the Genoa region since the collapse of the bridge. Designed by Italian engineer Riccardo Morandi, the cable-stayed bridge was built in 1974 using concrete – an unconventional material choice, selected for its low span-to-stay ratio.

The bridge was a vital part of Italy's A10 motorway, before collapsing on 14 August. Photo is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The collapse has been blamed on the decision made by the original construction team to not build the foundation piles using earthquake-proof materials.

According to The Express, an engineer who worked for the company that built the bridge told Corriere della Sera: "Everything always collapsed when the failed company was involved. When the structure was put up, the supporting piles were not made to sustain earthquakes."

Piano, 81, is on the world's best-known architects. He ranked at 44 on the latest Dezeen Hot List.

He has previously been involved in numerous humanitarian projects. He led reconstruction efforts following the Italian earthquake in 2016 and also designed an auditorium to replace the one destroyed during another earthquake in 2009.