What can happen when a brilliant mind has equally strong passions for architecture and music? The answer was seenlast week at a concert in New York, organized by the Viñoly Foundation. The Philadelphia Orchestra and Artistic Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin presented "A Musical Celebration of the Life of Rafael Viñoly" at Carnegie Hall.
They were joined by great musicians of international stature such as Itzhak Perlman; Lincoln Center's Isaiah J. Thompson Trio; and pianist Jonathan Biss, who played concert grand piano... with curved keyboard, the Maene-Viñoly.
The imagination and creative capacity of the famous Uruguayan architect trained at the University of Buenos Aires flew very high. Beyond designing memorable buildings (the Tokyo International Forum, Jazz at Lincoln Center, in New York; 20 Fernchurch Street, in London; Carrasco Airport; or the Zero + Infinite Exact Sciences pavilion, in Ciudad Universitaria are just a few), he once presented a proposal to "fix" Buenos Aires by "taking 20 million people out of it."
Viñoly's plan to repopulate Argentina
His plan was to found three cities, one dedicated to the sea, another to agriculture and the third to science, "sensational, divine, with roads so that on weekends you can go from one to the other," he said at a conference at the Argentine Center of Engineers.
There he also lashed out at the Port of Buenos Aires, "which was created to appropriate the production of the rest of the country, depopulating some sectors and overpopulating others."
But let's get back to the music. So many different ideas did not stop him from continuing to cultivate his passion: he had a piano in his studio and used to play classical pieces during the early creative stages of a project.
A New Yorker by adoption, he regularly attended concerts and was very close to Daniel Barenboim. It was the conductor who showed him a piano that instead of having the strings crossed, had them parallel.
"This piqued his curiosity: Rafael was very interested in this different relationship between fingers and keys, and the need to rethink the use of the pedal. One night, in conversation with Martha Argerich, she told us about her idea of designing a piano with a curved keyboard, which of course we encouraged," Barenboim said recently.
The Maene-Viñoly, during the concert at Carnegie Hall.
This is how he created that special grand piano – together with the prestigious manufacturer Chris Maene – that allows you to reach more naturally to registers that are difficult to reach. The Maene-Viñoly Concert Grand has been on display since June at the Kimmel Center, which houses the wonderful concert hall designed by the Uruguayan, home of the Philadelphia Philharmonic Orchestra.
The piano is distinguished by its curved ergonomic keyboard, its radial stringing and a larger than usual size, which gives it more power and nuance. But it is, above all, an object with which Viñoly managed to unite his two passions, architecture and music.