New Jean Nouvel hotel to open in Vienna

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French architect Jean Nouvel said Monday he wanted to fight "architectural schizophrenia" at the presentation of his latest project, a five-star Vienna hotel already hailed as a flagship for French group Sofitel.

"Increasingly, we tend to create buildings and then call on decorators for the interior. There's no link between the exterior and the interior," he told AFP.

"That's what I call a schizophrenic attitude. And I'm against schizophrenic architecture."

"In public spaces, in hotels, etc... I think architects must work on the inside, and not only on the outside."

The new Nouvel Tower, which opens Tuesday, includes design shops and the Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom, named after the Viennese landmark, St. Stephen's Cathedral.

At 75 metres (246 feet), the tower is one of the rare high rises in central Vienna, giving it an unrestricted view over much of the city's main sights.

Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist contributed colourful ceilings to the project, including the "golden carpet" ceiling of the 18th-floor restaurant that is meant to reflect out over the city at night.

Other than that, Nouvel stuck to a concept of "almost nothings" as he calls them: black, white, grey, glass and mirrors.

A few suites have even been furnished entirely in black.

For Sofitel, part of French hotel group Accor, the Vienna branch was already a flagship before its opening.

This is "not a normal stay, we're talking about an experience", Accor deputy CEO Yann Caillere told a press conference in Vienna Monday.

Nouvel said his goal was to enrich the city.

"It's in cities with a rich heritage that you have to strive to enrich it even more. It's in places of history that you must be the most ambitious," said the architect, who has already completed two other projects in Vienna.

The 182-room hotel does not come cheap with prices between 200 and 3,200 euros (280 and 4,300 dollars) per night.

The Nouvel Tower, which cost some 140 million euros in total, also includes the first foreign branch of German design shopping centre Stilwerk.

© 2010 AFP

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