The son of a builder, he vaulted to fame with bold designs like Paris's Pompidou Center and recently made his mark on Rome with a performing arts complex known as "the three turtles" because of its rounded, shell-like shape.At the age of 65, Piano is fighting to build his most audacious project yet, the 66-storey London Bridge Tower -- a soaring glass spire hailed by its supporters as a masterpiece and reviled by opponents who say it would dwarf its surroundings.
He insists the project will happen despite staunch opposition by the preservation group English Heritage -- which has slammed its "devastating impact" on the British capital's environment -- and the project's $572.1 million price tag.
"They say that this building may attract more attention than St Paul's Cathedral," Piano said in an interview at his "Building Workshop" on the outskirts of Genoa, a light-filled open-spaced structure he designed which clings to a hillside overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
"I don't think the new tower will attract more attention. But if it does, what's wrong with that?" he said of what would be Europe's tallest building. "It may become a new icon of London."
Piano is no stranger to controversy. The Pompidou Center was condemned for clashing with Paris's 18th century facades when it was built in the late 1970s.
Designed with British architect Richard Rogers, the "Beaubourg" -- which has become one of the French capital's most popular tourist sites -- signaled a theme in Piano's work by flaunting structural aspects like its metallic skeleton.
Piano described himself and Rogers as "bad boys" when they won the competition to design the building in 1971.