Renzo Picasso was born in 1880 in Genoa, and was an engineer, architect and designer. He spent much of his time visiting Europe and America, and, inspired by what he saw there, produced a number of drawings depicting the urban plans and infrastructure of these cities.

His subterranean perspective of Piccadilly Circus delights, and fascinates me; the station’s ticket hall is almost Millennium Falcon-like:

The tube network in London is disorienting, and crowded, and as a commuter it’s nigh on impossible to get a sense of how the spaces in these stations relate to each other. This image makes me appreciate the complexity of these structures, which, (partially because they are buried under the ground, and partially because I grew up in London, so I take them for granted) I’ve never taken the time before to fully consider or appreciate.

You may have noticed something curious about this image – the buses are driving on the right, rather than the left. Renzo Picasso drew this image with the intention of improving the infrastructure of his hometown, Genoa, and so, elected deliberately to present them in this way.

Clearly fascinated by underground transit systems, he also drew others:

Not just interested in the subterranean, he also devised a multi-layered highway system for New York. Here the main arteries are overlaid with four layers of traffic: the top layer is for trains, the one beneath for express car traffic, the third one for parking, and the ground level for local traffic:

Here he goes a step further: this image depicts a yellow lane for local traffic, a red express lane for fast-moving vehicles that weaves underneath the yellow lane, the green lane is for trains, and a blue level for “aero-garages”—a network of runway-topped hangars so planes and other air traffic could fly across the city:

He apparently had very close ties with the New York City government at the time, and he based this work on information from over 220 pages of urban planning proposals he obtained from the mayor’s office.

Following his trip to the US in 1911, and inspired by the skyscrapers in New York and Chicago, Renzo Picasso designed this tower for his hometown, Genoa:

Drawings of the tower was first published in national newspapers in 1917, under the name “Torre della Pace”, and the project was then rebooted with some slight improvements as “Torre della Vittoria” some years later (Italy was part of the Alliance that won the war).

This 50-storey building, to be erected on a cliff, was to house an observatory, and a maritime station with a mooring for small ships, seaplanes, and pleasure boats; and also featured terraces, offices, and restaurants. Sadly, the tower was never built.

Renzo Picasso died in 1975, and while he was responsible for some of the buildings that currently stand in Genoa, his grandest designs remain only in their printed form. 

The Renzo Picasso Archive is currently working to gather and restore Picasso’s works; and prints of his work are available on Etsy.

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