Transparency the watchword for architect Jean Nouvel
Prize-winning French architect Jean Nouvel's commitment to transparency is the one factor linking his projects over the past two decades.
PARIS, March 31, 2008 - Prize-winning French architect Jean Nouvel's
commitment to transparency is the one factor linking his projects over the
past two decades, the most celebrated being Barcelona's tall glass and metal
Agbar tower office block or Paris' recent riverside Quai Branly museum.
Now aged 62, the big bald Frenchman habitually dressed in black oversees a
team of 140 with a bevy of works-in-progress across the globe, including a
Louvre museum in Abu Dhabi, a new philharmonic concert hall for Paris and a
75-story tower next to New York's Museum of Modern Art.
Nouvel was born in southwest France where he acquired a lasting passion for
rugby, food, and conversation.
A graduate of Paris' Beaux-Arts school in 1972, he won international
attention after securing a much sought-after contract in 1981 to build Paris'
Institute of the Arab World as part of a wide-ranging plan by then president
Francois Mitterrand to throw up a series of contemporary buildings redrawing
Paris' architectural map.
The 1987 building launched his international career, and he went on to
erect the likes of the huge almost-all-glass Fondation Cartier in Paris, the
Dentsu Tower in Tokyo, the Guthrie theatre in Minneapolis or the makeover of
Madrid's Reina Sofia museum.
Nouvel, who originally wanted to study painting, opts for glass and metal
structures in most of his works, playing with light and shadow, transparency
and reflection. His idea, he says in interviews, is to create cinematic
effect, imagining space as if using "sequence shots, frames and tracking
He has said the key to designing a building is to make sure it is in
harmony with the site and surroundings. He initiates projects with his mind
cleared of preconceived ideas, he says.
"My research is always around the idea of specificity and I don't like to
repeat the same vocabulary or to do the same architecture," he said in one
Nouvel was a founding member in 1977 of the French union of architects, the
Syndicat de l'Architecture, and has won several awards.