Laura Camargo
Gabriela Tenorio


From observing the current dynamics of cities and the development of contemporary architecture, great criticism arises in response to the creation of iconic buildings as formal experiments that do not contribute to the local experience. Motivated by this criticism, this paper aims to analyse and understand the importance and the participation of architecture in the construction of a better public realm. The analytical method seeks to understand, evaluate and manipulate the main attributes of a public space based on the features that make it a platform for public life. The analysis focuses on the public realm in three areas of study- the space resulting of the interaction between the buildings, the interstitial space and the constructed spaces. The projects chosen to analyse consisted on iconic buildings by the architect Renzo Piano, due to his international recognition - a body of work shaped by the contexts in which they operate. The projects are situated in global cities and propose new configurations of public space: Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Potsdamer Platz, Berlin; and Saint Giles Court, London. The analysis seeks the features that make architecture successful in the sense that it aggregates people and creates interesting spaces that favour human permanence; the paper evaluates whether the projects of Renzo Piano display these features. Each project has its own particularities. Starting with the dimensions, each project contributes to the public space at a different scale. Nevertheless, the variables analysed were the same for each context, and the effects were considered regarding the proportions and the programmatic possibilities offered by each. After understanding the site and its history, the study of the public life and its local attributes, this paper highlights the strengths and weaknesses of each building and how they contribute to the specific place. The interpretation of the results took into account not only the present, but also the lifetime of each project, raising some potential problems or successes for the future. It is possible to conclude that the three projects contribute positively to the public space, stimulating urban improvements and constitute good-practice examples, each at a different intensity.


How to Cite
Camargo, L. and Tenorio, G. (2017) “Piano at the ground level”, The Journal of Public Space, 2(1), pp. 57–68. doi: 10.5204/jps.v2i1.50.
Author Biographies

Laura Camargo, University of Brasília

Architect and Urbanist graduated from the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism at University of Brasília in 2014. Selected to represent the faculty at Renzo Piano Building Workshop, collaborating in large international projects. Collaborated as associated architect for two years in Esquadra Arquitetos office, being responsible for the development of residential projects, from the conception to executive drawings. Her graduation project "Dance Station" was nominated for regional, national and international awards, being chosen prominent in the Competitive Exhibition New Architecture of Brasília and Regional Finalist of the 26th Opera Prima. Currently a student of the master's degree program in Urban and Regional Planning and Design at the University of Brasília.

Gabriela Tenorio, University of Brasília

Architect (1993), master (2001) and PhD (2012) from the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism/FAU of the University of Brasília/UnB. Her thesis on public spaces have received honorable mention from the National Association of Research and Graduate in Architecture and Urbanism Award. She has won two prizes in Brazilian city design competitions. In 2008, she trained at architect Jan Gehl’s office in Copenhagen to learn about his method of surveying public life and, in 2010, she attended two placemaking courses at the non-governmental organization Project for Public Spaces in New York. Her main interests are: urban centralities; urban mobility, interventions in consolidated areas; use, appropriation, design and evaluation of public spaces. She has been a professor at FAU-UNB since 1995, where she teaches courses on Urban Design and Post-Occupancy Evaluation of Public Spaces and coordinates the Center for Public Spaces Studies.


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