Inside Renzo Piano’s latest design – a residential tower built on new land in Monaco
Much of this curiosity is due to the larger structure on the newly designed grounds. The Renzo, as the building is called, demands what only great architecture can do: a universal sense of public curiosity. Shaped like the figure of a large ship, the 376,000 square foot building comprises 50 residential units and appears to be floating in the sea. There is perhaps no more fitting architect in the world to conceive such a project as Renzo Piano, Pritzker Prize winner who, more than anyone in his field, has designed a litany of iconic nautical structures. “Sustainable architecture always tells a compelling story,” says Piano, 84, founder of the Renzo Piano Building Workshop. “A house, for example, is not just a roof or a shelter. Rather, it is a dialogue between those who live there now and the moments that shaped the land before they arrived. It is about revealing the truth of the moment. This sentiment certainly rings true for Monaco – a place that was once a sleepy fishing village in the mid-19th century and now home to extremely well-to-do people.
The rapid increase in wealth and prestige in Monaco met the new tastes and demands of its citizens. But the layout and design of its apartments have not evolved in a way that is true to its time. A quick Google search shows a monotony of units for sale in decades-old towers with small floor plans. “There has been a growing demand for open floor plans, outdoor spaces and greater amenities,” says Guy-Thomas Levy-Soussan, managing director of SAM L’Anse du Portier, the company responsible for the development and financing of Mareterra (Levy-Soussan works directly with Patrice Pastor, the founder of the project and one of the only nine private shareholders.) “The prince, with the founders of Mareterra, saw in it an opportunity to diversify the residential offer here by attracting new buyers”, Lévy-Soussan continues. “But it’s more than that; this project will significantly improve public space in monegasque.
Architecture is always a response to the limitations of the environment it is meant to serve. And there are few greater limits defying Monaco than public access to the waterfront. Mareterra could easily have been a vanity project that catered only to the whims of a privileged few. But the prince had other plans. “The purposes of the different extensions of Monaco’s seafront have varied over time,” explains Prince Albert II. “I have personally ensured that Mareterra meets Monaco’s real estate needs, while respecting the environment in which it is built. Development is carried out in a sustainable manner, respecting both the landscape and the quality of life, to be considered as a natural extension of our territory. By ceding more than 90,000 square feet of prime waterfront land to the public (including nearly 2,000 feet of bike paths), Mareterra embodies the cardinal rule of architecture: it makes life better not only for those who live there. , but also around it.
In fact, more than any speech or statement the Monegasque monarchy might have made, their decision (along with the founders of Mareterra) to save the best ground for the public speaks volumes about their ideals for Monaco’s future. Here, as always, the architecture is a living symbol of social values.