Renzo Picasso: A Lesser-Known Architect Who Had Creative Plans for NYC

Renzo Picasso-Map of New York-NYCPhoto courtesy of the Renzo Picasso archive

New York City has many buildings and other infrastructure that were planned by some of the best-known architectural heavyweights in history including McKim, Mead and White, Cass Gilbert and Frank Lloyd Wright. But New Yorkers are less likely to have heard of Renzo Picasso, a 20th-century Italian architect and engineer who created plans for “future New York” among other drawings of the city. The Renzo Picasso archive, which can be found here in digital form, has ensured that Picasso’s drawings and plans remain in the narrative of New York City architecture. The archive has preserved a number of sketches that Picasso drew in the 1920s and 1930s depicting city maps and plans for the New York City transit system.

Renzo Picasso-Centre of Giants-NYCPhoto courtesy of the Renzo Picasso archive

Renzo Picasso was born in Genoa, Italy in 1880. He was responsible for planning some of the architecture in Genoa, including the Piazza De Ferrari, which he made plans for in 1909.

Renzo Picasso-Nassau Subway-NYCPhoto courtesy of the Renzo Picasso archive

According to Casira Copes, the Assistant Archivist for the Renzo Picasso archive, Picasso’s works consisted mostly of “analytical studies and visions of the future.” Copes says that his drawings fall into a few categories: “examinations of New York City skyscrapers, diagrams of the subway and traffic systems, cross-examinations comparing New York to places like Chicago and Boston and drawings of ‘future New York.'”

Renzo Picasso-Crosstown Boulevard-NYCPhoto courtesy of the Renzo Picasso archive

His “Crosstown Boulevard” drawing, pictured above, details plans for an “aero-garage” system in which airline runways are distributed throughout the city. Other plans that he created include the “American Layered Highway,” which was a multi-layered highway system that would have extended across the Hudson and East Rivers.

Renzo Picasso-Grand Central-NYCPhoto courtesy of the Renzo Picasso archive

Picasso was also interested in creating drawings of other cities like Chicago and London, which are also preserved in his archive collection. Find out more about Renzo Picasso on his archive website and Facebook.

Next, check out The NYC That Never Was: 10 Outrageous Architectural Plans that Never Left the Drawing BoardA Visionary Plan for a Submerged Aquarium in NYC’s East River and A Pedestrian Bridge Between Governors Island and Red Hook Could Be a RealityKeep up with the author @jen_bagcal

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