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Spotlight: Jean Nouvel

The winner of the Wolf Prize in 2005 and the Pritzker of 2008, French architect Jean Nouvel has attempted to design each of his projects without any preconceived notions. The result is a variety of projects that, while strikingly different, always demonstrate a delicate play with light and shadow as well as a harmonious balance with their surroundings. It was this diverse approach that led the Pritzker Prize Jury in their citation to characterize Nouvel as primarily "courageous" in his "pursuit of new ideas and his challenge of accepted norms in order to stretch the boundaries of the field."

Jean Nouvel on Architectural Eroticism and His Battles to Complete Buildings Correctly

Recently, Pritzker Prize winner Jean Nouvel has been in the news for all the wrong reasons; after his Philharmonie de Paris opened ahead of schedule in January this year, he has been involved in a very public battle to have his name removed from the project to distance himself from the "aberrational decisions" of the client. In this interview, originally published by the Huffington Post as "Interview With Jean Nouvel," Elena Cué sits down with Nouvel in his Paris Studio to talk about his inspirations, the phenomenon of architectural eroticism, and why he is often disappointed with his completed works.

Elena Cué: The anti-Le Corbusier architect Claude Parent was your mentor when you were starting out at the age of 21. Please tell me about what meeting him meant for your career. You were actively involved in May 68 with a radical stance against the educational model of the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. What were the things you demanded?

Jean Nouvel: I felt that his studio was one of the most creative at that time. He and his partner, Paul Virilio, created a space where a new approach to architecture could evolve. Paul became a very well-known philosopher and thinker of the time. I joined the intellectual rebellion of "May 68" and it certainly impacted my architectural style in terms of its criticism of the way in which French cities have traditionally been constructed. Later on, I joined with them to create the "March 1976 Movement," which demanded that the design of French cities no longer follow the same traditional model. Soon after, the architecture trade union was formed. It was a time of intellectual excitement.

The Torre Agbar. Image © Flickr CC user Juanedc The Fondation Cartier. Image © Flickr CC user Rory Hyde The Museo Reina Sofía. Image © Flickr CC user Manu (mscosgalla) The Philharmonie de Paris. Image © Flickr CC user Marko Erman

Jean Nouvel Loses Court Case Over Philharmonie de Paris

Jean Nouvel has lost a court battle aimed to remove his name from the newly opened Philharmonie de Paris. As The Telegraph reports, Nouvel claimed that the £280 million concert hall was inaugurated prematurely and parts of the building was "sabotaged" in doing so, thus believing it to be morally inapt from him be associated with the building.

"The architecture is martyred, the details sabotaged," he said in a Le Monde editorial, "so taxpayers will have to pay, once again, to correct these aberrational decisions."

Jean Nouvel Seeks Legal Action to Distance Himself from Philharmonie de Paris

After boycotting the premature opening of the infamous Philharmonie de Paris, Jean Nouvel has taken his frustrations to court demanding that his name and image be removed from all references to the publicly funded €390 million concert hall. The French architect, who has claimed to be wrongly vilified as a “spoilt-star artist” and unfairly blamed for the project’s spiraling costs, does not “wish to express himself any further on the project.” 

He has asked the court "to order amending work" to 26 "non-compliance" areas that do not comply with his original design. This areas include parapets, fireplaces, facades, the promenade and 2,400-seat concert hall itself. 

Jean Nouvel Boycotts Opening of the Philharmonie de Paris, Saying It Is "Not Finished"

Ateliers Jean Nouvel’s long awaited opening of the Philharmonie de Paris concert hall took place yesterday at a VIP event in which the French President, Francois Hollande, officiated the ceremony three years after it was scheduled to take place. Jean Nouvel, however, did not attend the event, instead writing an incendiary column for French Newspaper Le Monde, and releasing a statement saying he feels that the building has opened “too early” and it ”is not finished.” He argues that “there were no acoustic tests of the concert hall [as] the schedule did not allow the architectural and technical requirements to be respected, [...] despite all the warnings which I have been giving since 2013.”

Light Matters: Mashrabiyas - Translating Tradition into Dynamic Facades

The delicate mashrabiya has offered effective protection against intense sunlight in the Middle East for several centuries. However, nowadays this traditional Islamic window element with its characteristic latticework is used to cover entire buildings as an oriental ornament, providing local identity and a sun-shading device for cooling. In fact, designers have even transformed the vernacular wooden structure into high-tech responsive daylight systems. 

Jean Nouvel is one of the leading architects who has strongly influenced the debate about modern mashrabiyas.  His Institut du monde arabe in Paris was only the precedent to two buildings he designed for the harsh sun of the Middle East: The Doha Tower, which is completely wrapped with a re-interpretation of the mashrabiya, and the Louvre Abu Dhabi museum with its luminous dome.

More mashrabiyas, after the break...

BURJ DOHA, Doha, Qatar (2002 – 2012). Architecture: Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Image © CSCEC BURJ DOHA, Doha, Qatar (2002 – 2012). Architecture: Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Image © CSCEC BURJ DOHA, Doha, Qatar (2002 – 2012). Architecture: Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Image © CSCEC LOUVRE ABU DHABI, Abu Dhabi, UAE (2007 – under construction) Architecture and image. Image Courtesy of Ateliers Jean Nouvel, Artefactory, TDIC, Louvre Abu Dhabi

The Oxymore: Angularity That Belies Comfort

JeanNouvelDesign, the studio led by French architect Jean Nouvel, presented their new collection of furniture during Paris Design Week. Among them is the Oxymore chair, designed by JeanNouvelDesign and produced by specialty group-seating manufacturer Figueras International Seating. This fetishistic chair, a result of research conducted at the Figueras Design Centre, has a singular cubic appearance that provides extreme comfort, softness. It is precisely this unapparent relationship between look and feeling that gives the seat its name—since an oxymoron means a union of contradictory elements.

Courtesy of Figueras Courtesy of Figueras Courtesy of Figueras Courtesy of Figueras

VIDEO: Jean Nouvel on Arabic Architecture, Context and Culture

In this powerful interview, Jean Nouvel explains his relationship to Arabic architecture. Discussing his various projects in Arabic countries - such as his office tower in Doha or the Louvre Abu Dhabi - Nouvel discusses how he is influenced by and integrates the abstraction and geometry of traditional Islamic architecture into his modern designs. He also espouses a strong opinion on the understanding of context in architecture, saying: "I'm a contextual architect, but for me the context isn't only the site. It's above all a wider historical context - a cultural context... each time, building is trying to continue a history, and to take part in this history." His architecture, he says, is about listening: "The architect is not meant to impose his own values or his own sensitivities on such general plans." Video via Louisiana.

Spotlight: Jean Nouvel

“My interest has always been in an architecture which reflects the modernity of our epoch as opposed to the rethinking of historical references. My work deals with what is happening now—our techniques and materials, what we are capable of doing today.”

Today is the 69th birthday of the great French architect and designer, Jean NouvelThe winner of the Wolf Prize in 2005 and the Pritzker of 2008, Nouvel has attempted to design each of his projects without any preconceived notions, resulting in a variety of projects that - while strikingly different - always demonstrate an interesting use of light and shadow as well as a harmonious balance with their surroundings. More on the Pritzker-winning architect, after the break.

His variety of work can be seen in such acclaimed works as the Institut du Monde Arabe and the Fondation Cartier and. Nouvel also has a series of notable projects currently in the works, such as the New Louvre in Abu Dhabi and the National Art Museum of China.

© Ricardo Vidal © Paris Architecture Website © Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Photograph by Philippe Ruault © Jean Nouvel Ateliers

Milan Design Week 2013: Office for Living / Jean Nouvel

© Alessandro Russotti
© Alessandro Russotti

This week, 2008 Pritzker Prize laureate Jean Nouvel is expressing his vision for the workspaces of the future at the Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan. Nouvel was asked by Cosmit, the Salone's parent company, to create a huge project tailored specifically to the Saloni that would document the tremendous changes that have altered living and working spaces over the past few years. Nouvel responded with a project that "frees up the office space" and is a "counter to urban segregation and the zoning of other specially dedicated workplaces." He achieves these goals in his design by rejecting cloned and enclosed spaces as well as serial repetitiveness, suggesting more cohesive formulas that will better serve the domestic and international workplaces of the future.

More from Cosmit on "Project: office for living" after the break.

Ceramica Cumella: Shaping Ideas

From September 29th to December 8th, the exhibition dedicated to the work of Toni Cumella will be open. His works in ceramic have been utilised by architects such as Enric Miralles, Alejandro Zaera-Polo, or Jean Nouvel. These collaborations made his material became part of the image of Barcelona, being part of the construction of La Sagrada Familia, and the restoration of Casa Batlló and Parc Güell. Focusing on the 4 main fabrication processes in use at Ceramica Cumella – extruding, casting, pressing and revolving – Shaping Ideas presents the work of Toni Cumella and the application of his ceramics in some of contemporary architecture’s most significant projects.

Jean Nouvel selected to design new National Art Museum of China

© Patrick Gage Kelley
© Patrick Gage Kelley

Rumors are flying that Pritzker Prize winning architect Jean Nouvel has been selected to design the new National Art Museum of China (NAMOC) in Beijing. Although the official announcement isn’t due until November, Architectural Record has claimed that multiple, unidentified sources confirmed the news. If the reports are true, the French architect will have beat out fellow Pritzker Prize-winning architects Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid for the highly coveted commission. In a post-2008 Olympics attempt to attract more visitors to the area, the massive, 1.3 million square foot structure will be built next to the Herzog & de Meuron-designed Bird’s Nest. It will be one of three buildings planned for the area – the others being a museum dedicated to arts and crafts and a Sinology museum. Continue after the break to learn what may have given Nouvel the edge.

Developer Plans for New York's Next Iconic Building

425 Park Ave. © John W. Cahill / CTBUH
425 Park Ave. © John W. Cahill / CTBUH

Boxy replicas of high-end offices dominate New York’s Park Avenue skyline, with only two modernist exceptions breaking the mold – Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s Lever House. As the static skyline has remained largely untouched for nearly four decades, New York City developer L&L Holding Co. has announced plans to replace the aging tower of 425 Park Avenue with a new state-of-the-art, LEED-certified skyscraper. Norman Foster, Jean Nouvel, Zaha Hadid and Richard Meier are just a few of the eleven distinguished architects that L&L has invited to join in a competition for the redevelopment of the 65 year-old tower. Continue reading for more.

New Police Headquarters and Extension of Charleroi/Danses / Jean Nouvel and MDW Architecture

Courtesy of Jean Nouvel and MDW Architecture
Courtesy of Jean Nouvel and MDW Architecture

The new Police headquarters and the extension of Charleroi/Danses was designed by Jean Nouvel and MDW Architecture. The City of Charleroi has commissioned the CFE group to design, build, finance and maintain this ambitious project. More images and architects’ description after the break.