Renowned architect Renzo Piano under consideration to lead building efforts

Renzo Piano, a world-renowned architect who designed the recently opened modern wing of the Art Institute of Chicago, is considered a "person of interest" for future construction projects at Duke, President Richard Brodhead said Wednesday night at an alumni event in Chicago.

"We've certainly been in contact with [Piano]," said Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations. He added that he could not comment on the extent of the discussions with the architect.

In addition to designing the Art Institute's modern wing, which was praised by The New York Times as "a work of genuinely good architecture that is also kind to art," Piano has designed skyscrapers, bridges, parks and museums.

He won the prestigious Pritzker Prize for his work in 1997 and has been called "the world's finest architect" by The Independent, a British newspaper.

Although Duke froze construction projects earlier this year due to the budget constraints caused by the economic downturn, construction plans for major projects such as the development of New Campus are still being fleshed out, Schoenfeld said.

"We're continuing to plan for a number of projects, even though we have a temporary halt in construction activity," he said. "We are conducting aggressive planning on New Campus... and certainly Renzo Piano is one of the architects we would be eager to engage in the development of that project."

Schoenfeld added that "a number of leading architects" are also under consideration by Duke to spearhead future construction efforts, but did not provide any names.

The University's interest in the architect may stem from the fact that several of Piano's projects have been recognized for their environmental friendliness. The Art Institute's new wing is expected to be considered for a silver rating in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system of the U.S. Green Building Council, the Chicago Tribune reported. Another Piano project, the California Academy of Sciences, has a platinum LEED rating.

Duke's Smart Home program was awarded a platinum LEED rating last summer, and a new parking garage slated to open this January is expected to be considered for LEED certification.

Be sure to check out the Thursday, May 28 issue of The Chronicle for more coverage.


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