France's star architect snubs VIP concert hall opening

14th January 2015, Comments 0 comments

A huge -- and hugely expensive -- new Paris concert hall will get its VIP opening late Wednesday, but its star architect, Jean Nouvel, is snubbing the event because he says it is not yet ready.

"The Philharmonie is opening too early," Nouvel, who in 2008 won architecture's top global award, the Pritzker Prize, stormed in a long complaint printed by Le Monde newspaper.

The gala opening, in a once gritty district of northeast Paris that is rapidly gentrifying, is to attract a Who's Who of France's political and cultural elite, including President Francois Hollande.

The Philharmonie, a multi-level concert complex whose main hall seats 2,400 on sweeping balconies surrounding the centre stage, took eight years and 386 million euros ($455 million) of public money to build -- a budget three times its initial estimate.

Nouvel, who rejects blame for the budget blow-out, railed against the decision to open the complex on its Wednesday deadline while workers are still frantically drilling and hammering, and before musicians have had sufficient time to practise in it.

"The building is being open according to a timeline that does not respect architectural and technical requirements," he wrote.

"The Philharmonie has shot itself in each foot."

The Philharmonie's director, Laurent Bayle, explained in a separate interview with Le Parisien newspaper that it would have been too costly to delay the inauguration.

"We already pushed back the opening once by six months. A new delay would have cost a lot of money and posed problems because the (orchestral) programme was finalised a year and a half ago," he said.

© 2015 AFP

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