Renzo Piano peers up at his creation – an elegant sweep of steel and concrete spanning more than a kilometre.
“When you finish a job there is always a mix of feelings,” the 82-year-old world-renowned architect muses. “Satisfaction but also a bit of sadness too, because it’s no longer your building – it belongs to everybody.”
We speak beneath the hull of his soaring new bridge crossing the Polcevera river in Genoa, his design echoing a giant ship. It is being readied for its inauguration almost two years since its predecessor collapsed, killing 43 people: one of the worst infrastructure disasters in modern Italian history.
“I feel pride on one side but at the same time this bridge is born of tragedy. And this will never be forgotten.”
On 14 August 2018, a heavy storm engulfed Genoa. The Morandi bridge, crossing the Polcevera river in the centre of the city, was busy as ever, forming a vital section of the highway system connecting France and Italy.
Named after its engineer, Riccardo Morandi, the iconic bridge was a feat of Italian architecture when it opened in 1967. It used an innovative technique to encase steel supports in concrete and became a landmark for the port city.
At 11:36 in the morning on that fateful day, a steel-enforced concrete cable stay broke and collapsed, taking a supporting tower and a 210m (690ft) section of the bridge with it. Vehicles cascaded to the ground. Apartment blocks beneath were crushed.
Renzo Piano, a native of Genoa whose designs include The Shard in London and Paris’s Pompidou Centre, was working in Switzerland at the time.
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