Jean Nouvel

Jean Nouvel
Jean Nouvel

Jean Nouvel in 2009
Born August 12, 1945 (1945-08-12) (age 66)
Fumel, Lot-et-Garonne, France
Nationality French
Alma mater École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts
Awards Aga Khan Award for Architecture (Arab World Institute), Pritzker Prize, Wolf Prize in Arts
Practice Ateliers Jean Nouvel

Arab World Institute, Paris
Culture and Congress Centre, Lucerne
Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis
Torre Agbar, Barcelona
Musée du quai Branly, Paris

Fondation Cartier, Paris

Louvre Abu Dhabi (in progress)

Philharmonie de Paris (2012)

Jean Nouvel (French pronunciation: [ʒɑ̃ nu.vɛl]) (born August 12, 1945) is a French architect. Nouvel studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and was a founding member of Mars 1976 and Syndicat de l'Architecture. He has obtained a number of prestigious distinctions over the course of his career, including the Aga Khan Award for Architecture (technically, the prize was awarded for the Institut du Monde Arabe which Nouvel designed), the Wolf Prize in Arts in 2005 and the Pritzker Prize in 2008.[1][2][3][4] A number of museums and architectural centres have presented retrospectives of his work.[5][6]


Family and education

Nouvel was born August 12, 1945, in Fumel, Lot-et-Garonne, France, the son of Renée and Roger Nouvel who were teachers. His family moved often when his father became the county's chief school superintendent. His parents encouraged Nouvel to study mathematics and language, but when he was 16 years old he was captivated by art when a teacher taught him drawing. Although he later said he thought that his parents were guiding him to pursue a career in education or engineering, the family reached a compromise that he could study architecture which they thought was less risky than art.[4]

When Nouvel failed an entrance examination at the École des Beaux-Arts of Bordeaux, he moved to Paris where he won first prize in a national competition to attend the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts. From 1967 to 1970, Nouvel earned his income as an assistant to architects Claude Parent and Paul Virilio, who after only one year, made him a project manager in charge of building a large apartment complex.[4]

Nouvel and filmmaker Odile Fillion married and have two sons, Bertrand, who is a post-doctorate computer scientist working at the University of Chiba in Japan, and Pierre, who is a theater producer and designer at his company, Factoid. With his second wife Catherine Richard, Nouvel has a daughter, Sarah. He lives now with Mia Hägg, who is a Swedish architect working at her practice Habiter Autrement (HA) in Paris.[4]


By age 25, Nouvel completed school and entered into his own partnership with François Seigneur. Parent sent them work, and gave Nouvel a valuable recommendation to the directorship of the seventh edition of the Biennale de Paris[5] where for fifteen years, Nouvel designed exhibits and made contacts in the arts and theater.[4] Soon into his career, Nouvel became a key participant in intellectual debates about architecture in France: he co-founded the Mars 1976 movement in 1976 and, a year later, the Syndicat de l'Architecture. Nouvel was one of the organizers of the competition for the rejuvenation of the Les Halles district (1977) and he founded the first Paris architecture biennale in 1980.

In 1981, Nouvel won the design competition for the Institut du Monde Arabe (Arab World Institute) building in Paris, whose construction was completed in 1987 and brought Nouvel international fame. Mechanical lenses reminiscent of Arabic latticework in its south wall open and shut automatically, controlling interior lighting as the lenses' photoelectric cells respond to exterior light levels.[4]

Nouvel had three different partners between 1972 and 1984: Gilbert Lezenes, Jean-François Guyot, and Pierre Soria. In 1985, with his junior architects Emmanuel Blamont, Jean-Marc Ibos and Mirto Vitart, he founded Jean Nouvel et Associés. Then, with Emmanuel Gattani, he formed JNEC in 1988. Ateliers Jean Nouvel, his present practice, was formed in 1994 with Michel Pélissié and is one of the largest in France, with 140 people in the main office in Paris. Ateliers Jean Nouvel site offices are in London, Copenhagen, New York, Rome, Madrid and Barcelona. As of 2008, they are working on 40 active projects in 13 countries.[4] Nouvel designed a flacon for L'Homme, an Yves Saint Laurent fragrance, in a limited edition launched in 2008.[7]

Pritzker Prize

Torre Agbar (2005, upper right) in Barcelona is one of Nouvel's most famous recent buildings.

Nouvel was awarded the Pritzker Prize, architecture's highest honour, in 2008, for his work on more than 200 projects,[8] among them, in the words of The New York Times, the "exotically louvered" Arab World Institute, the bullet-shaped and "candy-colored" Torre Agbar in Barcelona, the "muscular" Guthrie Theater with its cantilevered bridge in Minneapolis, and in Paris, the "defiant, mysterious and wildly eccentric" Musée du quai Branly (2006) and the Philharmonie de Paris (a "trip into the unknown" c. 2012).[3][8]

Pritzker points to several more major works: in Europe, the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art (1994), the Culture and Convention Center in Lucerne (2000), the Opéra Nouvel in Lyon (1993) , Expo 2002 in Switzerland and, under construction, the Copenhagen Concert Hall and the courthouse in Nantes (2000); as well as two tall towers in planning in North America, Tour Verre in New York City and a cancelled condominium tower in Los Angeles,[4]

In its citation, the jury of the Pritzker prize noted:

Of the many phrases that might be used to describe the career of architect Jean Nouvel, foremost are those that emphasize his courageous pursuit of new ideas and his challenge of accepted norms in order to stretch the boundaries of the field. [...] The jury acknowledged the ‘persistence, imagination, exuberance, and, above all, an insatiable urge for creative experimentation’ as qualities abundant in Nouvel’s work.[4]


Nouvel has designed a number of notable buildings across the world, the most significant of which are listed below. As part of the announcement of Nouvel's Pritzker Prize, the Hyatt Foundation, which awards the prize, published a full illustrated list of Nouvel's architectural work, including projects which were never built, projects in construction and designs for which construction has yet to start.[9][10] In 2001 director Beat Kuert filmed a documentary about five of Nouvel's projects titled Jean Nouvel.


  • In March 2010, Jean Nouvel presented his plans for the National Museum of Qatar.
  • Jean Nouvel is one of the architects involved in the designing of the new Slussen in Stockholm.[11]
  • On Tuesday 05/27/2008 Nouvel's design won the contest for the upcoming Tour Signal in La Défense.[12]
  • In February 2008, Nouvel agreed to design a 45-story luxury condo tower in upscale Century City section of Los Angeles, California. The tower will be of modern design—it is designed to maximize views of the Los Angeles Country Club from the units and is opposed by both homeowners associations in Beverly Hills for the shadows it will cast on many small homes and its next door neighbor, Beverly Hills High School.[13]
  • In November 2006, Hines commissioned Nouvel to build a new 75-story tower, named the Tour de Verre, next to the Museum of Modern Art in Midtown Manhattan. The tower will house a hotel, luxury apartments and three floors (2nd, 4th, and 5th) will be used by MoMA to expand its exhibition space.[14] The tower has ignited a controversy in New York City, with many objecting to the tower, and Community Board 5 has rejected the project.[15]
  • In April 2007, Jean Nouvel associated with Marshall Day Acoustics Ltd won the competition to build a new Orchestra Hall (Philharmonie de Paris) in Paris, close to Cité de la Musique (opening in 2012)[16]
  • The Centre for Sustainable Development in Le Havre, France. The project includes the construction of a 120 m high tower on a former seaport area. The project is currently on hold because of an important increase in projected costs.[17]

Under construction

Tower 25 in Nicosia , Cyprus
  • In March 2007, the Louvre announced it would build a Louvre branch in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, on Saadiyat Island. Jean Nouvel was chosen as architect. The museum is expected to be completed by 2013.[18]
  • A 20-story condo tower built on a parking lot at 11th Avenue and 19th Street in New York City. The tower is next to the Venus (mural) (1970) by New York painter Knox Martin[1] on the south side of Bayview Correctional Facility and will block the 10 story mural from view.[19] (Expected completion in 2010. The Wall Street Journal reported in August 2008 that the project is some $50 million over budget and one year behind schedule)[20]
  • In Montpellier the new Hôtel de Ville designed in partnership with François Fontès is under construction and scheduled for completion in 2011.[21]
  • Central Park redevelopment plan in Sydney will see 11 new buildings in partnership with architects such as Norman Foster to recreate an abandoned brewery occupying almost four inner-city blocks. Nouvel's 120 meter One Central Park is his first project in Australia, and will feature a cantilevered mirror hanging over the central square off of the side of the building.
  • Tower 25 in Nicosia, a 17-stories tall building in the center of the town. [2]


Monolith for Expo.02 (2002) in Switzerland
Zlatý Anděl (2001) in Prague
Gasometer A (2001, foreground?) in Vienna

Abandoned projects

  • 1989 - The Tour Sans Fins (Office/High-Rise) at La Défense, France, was never realized. Nouvel's winning design, proposed as Europe's tallest building in 1989, was to change ground up from granite, followed by aluminum, stainless steel and finally glass—"increasingly diaphanous before disappearing into the sky".[4]

Awards and distinctions

Nouvel and the buildings which he designed have received a number of distinctions during his career, the most prestigious of which are listed below.

Individual distinctions

Distinctions for projects



Sources consulted
  1. ^ a b "Aga Khan Award for Architecture; The Fourth Award Cycle, 1987-1989". Aga Khan Development Network. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  2. ^ a b "THE 2005 Wolf Foundation Prize in the Arts". Wolf Foundation. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  3. ^ a b c Robin Pogrebin (2008-03-30). "French Architect Wins Pritzker Prize". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Media Kit announcing the 2008 Pritzker architecture Prize Laureate" (PDF). The Hyatt Foundation. 2008-03-31. Archived from the original on 2008-04-09. Retrieved 2008-03-31. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Press release for a 2001-2002 retrospective of Nouvel's work" (PDF). Centre Pompidou. 2001.$File/nouvelnouveau.pdf. Retrieved 2008-03-30. . A shorter version in English is also available.
  6. ^ a b Alain Adam (Winter 2006). "Not all Sweetness and Light at Quai Branly". State of Art (8). 
  7. ^ Slenske, Michael (March 20, 2008). "Pocket Rocket". Advance Publications via Retrieved 2008-04-02. 
  8. ^ a b "Nouvel wins top architect's prize". BBC News. March 31, 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-31. 
  9. ^ "Project List — 2000-2007 — Ateliers Jean Nouvel" (PDF). The Hyatt Foundation. 2008-03-31. Archived from the original on 2008-04-09. Retrieved 2008-03-31. 
  10. ^ "The Pritzker Architecture Prize 2008 Presented to Jean Nouvel" (PDF). The Hyatt Foundation. 2008-03-31. Archived from the original on 2008-04-09. Retrieved 2008-03-31. 
  11. ^ Arkitektstjärnor slåss om Slussen
  12. ^ Lebow, Arthur. "The Contextualizer," New York Times. April 6, 2008, p. 4; excerpt, "...a skyscraper that Nouvel (adapting a term from the artist Brâncuşi) called the “tour sans fins,” or endless tower. Conceived as a kind of minaret alongside the squat, monumental Grande Arche de La Défense, the endless tower has taken on some of the mystique of Mies van der Rohe’s unbuilt Friedrichstrasse glass skyscraper of 1921. To obscure its lower end, the tower was designed to sit within a crater. Its facade, appearing to vanish in the sky, changed as it rose, from charcoal-colored granite to paler stone, then to aluminum and finally to glass that became increasingly reflective, all to enhance the illusion of dematerialization."
  13. ^ Vincent, Roger (2008-02-07). "New heights of luxury in Century City". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2008-03-04.,1,3868993.story. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  14. ^ Ouroussoff, Nicolai (2007-11-15). "Next to MoMA, Reaching for the Stars". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  15. ^ Moynihan, Colin (2008-04-09). "Planned Tower Near MoMA Widely Criticized at Hearing". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-04. 
  16. ^ "Philharmonie de Paris (Paris Symphony Hall)". The Design Build Network. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  17. ^ "La tour prend garde" (in fr). Libération. 2008-02-11. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  18. ^ Le "Louvre Abu Dhabi" verra bien le jour Le Figaro October 9, 2007
  19. ^ Mindlin, Alex (2007-02-11). "After a 37-Year Run, a Roadside Venus to Be Veiled". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  20. ^ Frangos, Alex (2008-08-20). "Lavish New York City Condo Project Contends With Lenders' New Demand". Wall Street Journal. 
  21. ^ "Le nouvel hôtel de ville - Portail Ville de Montpellier". Ville de Montpellier. 
  22. ^ Museum of Modern Art opened in Baku
  23. ^ Ouroussoff, Nicolai (2010-03-15). "At the Corner of Grit and Glamour". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-06. 
  24. ^ "Copenhagen Concert Hall project description". Danmarks Radio website. Retrieved 2009-01-17. 
  25. ^ Fiera di Genova website
  26. ^ Guthrie Theater website
  27. ^ CNN GoSeoul's best museums 27 October 2011. Retrieved 2011-11-04
  28. ^ Torre Agbar at Structurae
  29. ^ Photo
  30. ^ KölnTurm at Structurae
  31. ^ Photos at
  32. ^ Photos at
  33. ^ Photos at
  34. ^ Photo
  35. ^ Musée Vésunna at Structurae
  36. ^ Photos
  37. ^ Photo at
  38. ^ Photos at
  39. ^ Photos at
  40. ^ List of winners of the Équerre d'Argent, Groupe Moniteur.
  41. ^ "Design Awards 2010: the winners". Wallpaper. Retrieved 2010-04-21. 

External links

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