Hometown Hero

Renzo Piano offers his expertise to rebuild collapsed Italian bridge

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Italian architect Renzo Piano says he'll help rebuild the collapsed Morandi Bridge in his hometown of Genoa, Italy. (Courtesy Washington Post)
Italian architect Renzo Piano says he'll help rebuild the collapsed Morandi Bridge in his hometown of Genoa, Italy. (Courtesy Washington Post)

Renzo Piano has volunteered to help rebuild the recently collapsed Morandi Bridge in his hometown of Genoa, Italy. The world-renowned architect, who serves as a senator for life in the Italian Parliament, told the Observer last week that it’s his duty to respond to the national disaster and that he’d be happy to be further involved not only as an architect but as a citizen of Genoa.

Earlier this month, part of the 51-year-old bridge snapped during a rainstorm, causing cars to freefall to the ground and killing 43 people total. The cable-stayed bridge was designed by structural engineer Riccardo Morandi and was considered an engineering marvel in its time. The August 14 tragedy raised worldwide concern over the functional lifespan of many bridges built in the mid-20th century.

The Morandi Bridge was one of countless major pieces infrastructure in Italy, the U.S., and across the globe that have become dangerously fragile. Because the bridge was part of an arterial road in Italy, the A10 motorway, it must be rebuilt and has the potential to stand for unity and hope, according to Piano.

“A bridge is a symbol and should never fall, because when a bridge falls, walls go up,” he said to the Observer. “So it’s not only physical but metaphorical—walls are bad, we should not build walls, but bridges are good, they make connections.”

The architect, who lives in Paris, has an office that he designed in Genoa’s western seaside village of Punta Nave. In conversation with the Observer, Piano recounted growing up in the port city and visiting various construction sites with his builder parents. As a native, he knows what Genoa needs during this time of crisis and wants to offer his expertise. Though it’s too soon to talk about the specifics of a redesign, Piano said he believes a new bridge should convey a message of truth and pride.

“It must be a place where people can recognize the tragedy in some way, while also providing a great entrance to the city,” he said. “All this must be done without any sign of rhetoric—that would be the worst trap. But I think we will stay away [from that] and instead try to express real pride and values. That is what Genoa deserves.”

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