When you want a flashy, expensive and noteworthy building you turn to Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaus or Daniel Libeskind. Unfortunately, not every building can be a signature piece. When you want a conservative building executed well, you turn to Renzo Piano (Slate article).
While the other architectural wunderkinds have been rebuilding city skylines with bold statements in metal and glass, Piano has been quietly designing buildings in Europe and Asia. I was reminded of him while watching a documentary on Kansai airport in Osaka, Japan.
Piano is scheduled for what they'd call a breakout fairly soon. In the same way that Gehry exploded from architectural obscurity to the mainstream after the Bilbao Guggenhiem, I think Piano will similarly acsend after the London 'Shard of Glass' is built. It will soon be the tallest building in Europe, especially striking for a city not especially known for skyscrapers. Soon afterward, people may revisit his other works such as the New York Times building, Pompidou Centre and other works and discover a deep and varied portfolio worthy of some of the same recognition as the other household names.