Right after graduating from the Cooper Union School of Architecture in the mid-90s, I headed for Italy to participate in a workshop competition. Over beers, a fellow competitor confronted me point blank, “Who is your favorite architect?” Caught by surprise, I uttered the first name that came into my mind, “Renzo Piano.” Shortly after, I realized it was true. On that same trip, I went to Genoa to visit the architect’s office, perched on the slopes of a hill above the sea on Via Pietro Paolo Rubens 29 to touch, sniff, and discuss Piano’s work first hand. By then, his architecture was fully expressed and his best works were already produced – Center Pompidou in Paris (with Richard Rogers, 1971-77); The Menil Collection in Houston (1982-86); San Nicola Football Stadium in Bari, Italy (1987-90); Kansai International Airport Terminal (1988-94) in Osaka, Japan; Beyeler Foundation Museum in Riehen, Switzerland (1991-97); and Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Center in Noumea, New Caledonia (1991-98). Piano’s architecture is well-balanced. It is daring and radical, yet, it is always impeccably cited, meticulously crafted, and beautifully integrated with landscape and natural light. In addition to performing whatever functions at hand, his buildings are often lifted off the ground to admit plenty of sunlight and create public gathering spaces in front of them; their graceful lines and refined details evoke beautiful ships or giant musical instruments.