Paul Clemence: I look around your office and models are everywhere! From miniatures of entire buildings to blown-up structural details. Considering the integration of 3-D modeling software in architectural practice over the last decade, are models still essential to the preliminary design process?
Renzo Piano: Doing one of these rough models is the same as sketching. The model is three-dimensional version of a sketch. With the computer you need to tell it exactly what to do; where to start, where to stop. When I am doing the sketch, I don’t have to tell the sketch where to start, where to end. It’s instinctive. Sketching, like the model, has the quality of imperfection. Neither has to be precise. It gives you freedom. It gives you the possibility to change. The computer is perfect in the moment when you cannot be perfect. Making models and sketches is very important in this early part of the process, because in the beginning it is never precise—if you have to be precise you can get trapped in the shape, in the form. And you have to remember that the model is just a fragment—the only place where it all comes together is the mind, even with things like proportion and scale. One of the biggest mistakes an architect can make is to get scale wrong.