Jean Nouvel, famous for making buildings in harmony with the context, was born on 12 August 1945 in France. Parents of Nouvel, associated with the teaching profession, pushed him to study mathematics and language to ultimately land into the profession of engineering. On the other hand, Nouvel found great interest in art, and eventually his family compromised. He failed the entrance test at first attempt but managed to get in after a year at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
During his early days, Nouvel’s building proposals were based on very critical ideas which used to meet rejection most of the times thus ending up being unbuilt but they still got him recognition among architects. Here it is important to mention that it was Nouvel’s parents who provided him with his early projects and set a direction for him. His parents recommended him for the job of director of the Paris Biennale, even though he did not have much knowledge about it. It was due to this job that he established contacts in the field of arts.
It was 1987 when Nouvel gathered the international fame through the Institute of the Arab World project in Paris and even won Aga Khan Award for it. The unique feature of this ultra modern design was its facade that comprised of mechanical oculi operated by photoelectric cells that would automatically open and close in response to light intensity.
Nouvel’s speciality is that he transforms the landscapes and tries to blend them into the built forms. This is the reason it can’t be said that Nouvel follows a same routine while designing all his buildings. His work is always specific to the site, program, its people and the whole context. In short, it will not be wrong to say that personal architectural style of Nouvel is, having no signature style. Frank Gehry, a close friend of Nouvel put it so right in this way, “He tries things and not everything works. There’s a mixture of things that are extraordinary, things that are experiments, things that don’t come off aesthetically. But Jean is willing to jump in and take on things and try. That’s a great quality.”
Some of the most significant works of Jean Nouvel are:
- 1987 – Arab World Institute, Paris, France
- 2000 – Palais de Justice, France
- 2004 – Torre Agbar (Office), Barcelona, Spain
- 2009 – Copenhagen Concert Hall, Copenhagen, Denmark
- 2010 – 100 Eleventh Avenue, Manhattan, NY, USA
- 2010 – One New Change, London
- 2011 – Tower 25 in Nicosia
- 2012 – Doha 9 skyscraper, Doha, Qatar
- 2015 – Philharmonie de Paris, Paris
From critics’ point of view, Nouvel is said to be a conceptual architect. He works more with words than with drawings. Nouvel himself has explained the reason pretty much as, ” I mistrust drawings as fixing things too early in the creative process, while words liberate. I believe the architect is a man who says something.”
Enthusiasm, expansive imagination and lust for more experimentation has made Jean Nouvel stand out in the field of architecture. He won Pritzker Architecture Prize, the highest award of field, in 2008 in acknowledgment of his more than 200 exuberant projects.