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“I build flying vessels,” says the Pritzker Prize-winning Italian architect Renzo Piano, recalling some of his most iconic buildings: the Shard in London, the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco and Paris’s beloved Centre Pompidou. All distinct, many groundbreaking, but each linked in his mind by a conceptual thread that ties into the works he is busy finalising as we speak: a mixed retail and business square at the centre of London’s regeneration of Paddington; and a development that is part of Monaco’s €2bn project to extend its coastline 15 acres into the Mediterranean.