Piano was born in Genoa, Italy, in 1937 and maintains a home and office (Building Workshop) in the area. He was educated and subsequently taught at the Politecnico di Milano. He graduated from the University in 1964 and began working with experimental lightweight structures and basic shelters. From 1965 to 1970 he worked with Louis Kahn and with Makowsky. He worked together with Richard Rogers from 1971 to 1978; their most famous joint project is the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris (1977). He also had a long collaboration with the engineer Peter Rice.

In 1981, Piano founded the “Renzo Piano Building Workshop”, employing a hundred people with offices in Paris, Genoa, and New York.

On 18 March, 2008, he became an honorary citizen of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Piano’s recent expansion of the Art Institute of Chicago includes a 264,000 square foot wing with 60,000 square feet of gallery space called the Modern Wing, which opened on May 16, 2009. It includes a “flying carpet”, a sunscreen that hovers above the roof and a 620-foot steel bridge connecting Millennium Park to a sculpture terrace that leads into a restaurant on the wing’s third floor.