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10 Noteworthy Works By Jean Nouvel

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Jean Nouvel, described by the Pritzker Prize Jury as a man who pushes the field’s boundaries by challenging the preconceived norms, is a man nothing short of courageous. Believing in situational architecture, Jean Nouvel designs each project without any preconceived notions. Each project is unique in its own right, born out of the sui generis nature of its site, context, and function. His diverse approach to architecture won him the Wolf Prize in 2005 and the Pritzker award in 2008.

When a large percentage of the world revered Le Corbusier and his words, Jean Nouvel was a pupil under the anti-Le Corbusier, Ar. Claude Parent. Under Claude Parent’s mentorship, he pursued new ideas and demanded that the French cities no longer follow the traditional design model. Nouvel was also part of the intellectual rebellion “May 68,” With his mentor, he created the “March 1976 movement”. His play of light and shadow adds a unique element of mystery as he manipulates the seen and the unseen, making an air of seduction in his designs. His unique way of thinking resulted in many heterogeneous ideas, manifested into some of the most iconic buildings one can witness. 

In an interview, Nouvel quoted his thought that “Architecture is a mystery that must be preserved.”

Expressing his extravagant thought process in his design language, here are a few notable works by Jean Nouvel that have created a dynamic global impact on architecture.

1. Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris

Jean Nouvel
Enrique Jan + Jean Nouvel + Architecture-Studio

Due to the Institut du Monde Arabe, Jean Nuovel got his first international acclaim as an architect. As is Jean Nouvel’s specialty in facade detailing, the frontage of the Institut du Monde Arabe is no exception to this treatment. Mashrabiya motifs are used in the metallic screen that allows filtered light and expresses an evident devotion to the traditional Arabic culture.

Enrique Jan + Jean Nouvel + Architecture-Studio

Several hundred light-sensitive diaphragms control the size of the apertures on the facade, controlling the amount of light entering the building. While the metallic brise soleil is the most innovative and aesthetic element of the building, it also serves as climatic control by reducing the solar heat gain of the building.

Winning the Aga Khan Award in Architecture in 1989, the building stands tall as a beacon of Arabic culture in France.

2. Tours Duo, France

Jean Nouvel
Jad Sylla

Nearing its completion, Tous Duo in Paris hosts a mixed-use program with an eight-story hotel, office spaces, retail, restaurant, bar, gardens, and green terraces. The design also includes a new access point to the river beside it. Jean Nouvel’s towers display as an air of relaxed dynamism with its subtly staggering volumes and a rippling facade.

The two towers are asymmetrical in their ‘V’ form and create an appealing facade dynamic yet subtle. The tallest tower rises 180 meters above the ground while the other is only 122 meters tall. Each facade is slightly different and designed with energy efficiency and aesthetics in mind. The glass facade on one side reflects the adjacent railway track that adds to the image of Tours Duo and connects to its context.

Jad Sylla

Jean Nouvel quoted, “Eastern Paris is slowly coming into focus, building up and taking form, completing and modifying an unfinished context. This project is about building its summit, its culminating point for the beginning of the century.”

He continues, “It is also about creating a character, a singularity that is in relation with the reality of the site, that reveals its particular beauty, that relies on it to invent and strengthen the attractiveness of the place.”

3. One Central Park in Chippendale, Australia

Jean Nouvel
Murray Fredericks

Jean Nouvel and Blanc had a blank canvas to work on with this project which was flawlessly executed as a solution to the depleting land resources and the disappearing green in the modern cityscape. The design was thought-provoking by addressing some of the vital issues in architecture.

The hanging cantilever is often described as the cornerstone of Jean Nouvel’s design of One Central Park, hovering at its pinnacle. It is a set of motorized mirrors that reflect sunlight into the gardens below during the day. During the nighttime, the exact mirrors reflect any bit of light falling onto it, shimmering and adding a dynamic and ever-changing element to the design of One Central Park.

Simon Wood

The structure boasts a design paragon of a man living in harmony with nature in a modern language. The public park adjacent to it climbs the facades of the building, making it seem as if nature has taken over its course. Using 250 species of indigenous vegetation, the sides of One Central Park are a blend of lush green and glass. Vines, creepers, blooms, and plants spring up and between each floor, converting what would’ve been a bland Sydney skyline into a thoughtful solution catering to modern living.

4. Philharmonie de Paris, France

Jean Nouvel
Danica O Kus

Jean Nouvel’s Philharmonie de Paris is a paragon of urban harmony with a design relating to the Parc de La Villette by Bernard Tschumi, Cite de la Musique, and the Paris ring road. The facade comprises multi-tone interlocking bird-shaped tiles that extend onto the ground.

The Grand staircase and ramp offer different access points into the building and lead to the rooftop plateau to hold up to 700 people. The design of the auditorium inside contrasts with the angular exterior and has curving forms with cascading balconies that wrap about the stage.

Danica O Kus

The facade is polished and reflects the climate of Paris with its grey clouds and bursts of sunshine. A continuation of Tschumian themes is evident with the sheltered garden beneath the building. The elevated plateau is a walkable mineral relief that forms a viewing deck over the cityscape.

5. National Museum of Qatar, United Arab Emirates

Jean Nouvel
Gaston Bergeret

Jean Nouvel designed the National Museum of Qatar in Doha to represent the nation directly, its people, and its traditions. “Architecture and culture are good ways to create communication and understanding between civilizations and countries,” added Jean Nouvel.

One of the world’s largest museums, the National Museum spans over an area of roughly 40,000 sq. m. This colossal museum has a desert-rose exterior that contrasts the ever-changing Doha skyline by depicting a contemporary style of architecture that is nationalistic yet modern.

The desert rose is a floral cluster of crystals that Jean Nouvel describes as a powerful symbol of the desert with the influence of wind, water, and time. 

The discs that make up the form themselves are made of fiber-cement and are mounted on a steel substructure. Multiple design iterations were required to imagine the final form of this building and for it to be an experience from which visitors view the city and the sea.

To solidify the connection to the sea, Jean Nouvel created a lagoon that let the water serve as a reminder of the shoreline.
“The place has become a pedestal for images, a sort of transmitter, a tattooed museum,” said Jean Nouvel.

6. Musée du Quai Branly, Paris

Clement Guillaume

Jean Nouvel challenges the western acceptance of architectural norms; the use of curtain walls, false ceilings, separate emergency staircases, parapets, pedestals, and showcases. The museum evokes an emotional response by using light to transport the user into a dimension of the works of art displayed within.

The incorporation of green on the facades brings the building to life, eliminating the solids and converting them into a mere vegetation frame. The museum becomes a space engulfed in nature, cradling works of art within its embrace.

Jean Nouvel
Clement Guillaume

“All that remains is to invent the poetry of the site by a gentle discrepancy: a Parisian garden becomes a sacred wood, with a museum dissolving in its depths,” said Jean Nouvel about the experience of the space.

7. Dentsu Building, Tokyo

Atelier Jean Nouvel

Jean Nouvel attempted to remove all the heavy aspects of the building, resulting in a design that created its urban landscape. The sleek design appears to hover on the horizon, free of any geometric imposition.  

The design interacts with Japanese symbolism and the intangible aspect of light, depicting strength and fragility in the same tone. While the exterior form made the Dentsu building appear weightless, the interiors show its enormity.

Jean Nouvel
Wikipedia

Jean Nouvel focused on three primary aspects: acoustics, response to climate, and the resulting aesthetics. The orientation of the building and the materiality inclined towards increasing thermal comfort while the floors and ceilings were designed for aesthetic comfort.

8. Louvre Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Luc Boegly & Sergio Grazia

Jean Nouvel designed the Louvre Abu Dhabi as a spectacle in itself whose aesthetics are consistent with the works of art it would house in it. Jean Nouvel succeeded in creating a structure that responds to historical precedents, modern style, and the current climate. 

Furthermore, the entire design boasts an air of serenity and calmness enhanced by the glimpses of natural light under the perforated dome.

Shimmering under the Abu Dhabi sun, the double dome is made of perforated material, woven in perfect geometry but overlapped to create random uneven openings that allow light to fall through like rain. 

Jean Nouvel
Mohamed Somji

The dome is equally show-stopping at night, creating a starry effect above the lit museum. 

An artificial archipelago in the ocean, the Louvre Abu Dhabi enkindles emotions from traditional Arabic architecture in the current world language. The shift from tradition is evident in the modern design and interpretation of the dome. 

Jean Nouvel
Roland Halbe

The museum welcomes visitors by boat or foot, distributing pedestrian traffic throughout the museum. The museum’s design embraces visitors into a shaded volume punctuated by seemingly random bursts of sunlight.

9. 100 11th Avenue, New York City

Atelier Jean Nouvel

With a facade of over 1650 window panes across its curved surface, the 100 11th avenue skyscraper by Jean Nouvel is a sight to behold.

Emphasizing the window mullions to the point that they become randomized frames, Jean Nouvel adds more character to Manhattan’s cityscape. The design eradicates a typical curtain wall construction, indicating Jean Nouvel’s ideology in pushing the boundaries of the standard structure.

Atelier Jean Nouvel

To support the facade despite the load path, steel was used as the exterior structural material that enabled the surface to span a mere three-inch in width. The two facades of the building contrast each other; the facade facing the water is all steel and glass, with the most significant rooms having a 37-foot broad panoramic view while the frontage facing the city is plain with specific punched openings indicating that the facades were designed to be reflective of the views they provide.

10. Torre Agbar, Barcelona, Spain

Flickr user Ania Mendrek

Jean Nouvel describes the form as a geyser that rises from the ground but with controlled pressure. This entire design rejects the American definition of a skyscraper and glorifies the symbols of Catalan culture.

The most characteristic element is how the entire tower lights up nocturnally. Four thousand five hundred luminous devices enable the building to transition between colors to create a dynamic effect. 

Flickr

The tower quickly rose to fame upon completion and became a symbol of recognizing the Catalan capital of Barcelona.

Versatility of Jean Nouvel

Though a mere ten in number, these buildings are more than sufficient to see Jean Nouvel’s situational thinking and ideas that constantly push the boundaries of architectural norms. With his diverse portfolio of works, Nouvel has managed to create a sense of intrigue and curiosity about the possibilities in architecture. Using computational methods and parametric tools, Nouvel has taken architecture to a newfound level of innumerable opportunities through geometries.

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