By Jim Schutze
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Maquettes of Piano's more recent projects, the New York Times Tower, London Bridge Tower and Maison Hermès, are on view downstairs. Along the back wall there are his most overtly utopian designs. Old and new have been coupled, with the Fiat Flying Carpet, a green car frame (1978-'80), and the worm-like demountable plastic IBM Traveling Pavilion (1983-'86), next to the bubbly and undulating landscape-cum-architecture project for the Renovation and Expansion of the Californian Academy of Science in San Francisco (2000-present).
Consistent in all of his designs, from 1966 to the present, is the innovative manipulation of the repeatable module. Back in the day of the architectural avant-garde, in the 1960s when Archigram, Archizoom and Super Studio flaunted their stuff, this was the ticket to a better tomorrow. Varying the repeatable unit in new ways, making a megastructure that was demountable and thus impermanent, for example, promised a mode of revolutionary living. Though his work has changed over the years, gaining refinement while losing gritty derring-do, it is this revolutionary possibility, a point-of-view shielded if not enabled by rose-colored glasses, which flickers at the heart of Piano's design.
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