Jean Nouvel

born August 12th, 1945

  • Fondation Cartier, Paris / France (1994)
  • Torre Agbar, Barcelona / Spain (2004)
  • Louvre, Abu Dhabi / UAE (2017)

Jean Nouvel (French: [ʒɑ̃ nu.vɛl]; born 12 August 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 on 12 August 1945 in Fumel, France. He is 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 Mindstorm Multitouch in London, 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]


Torre Aigües de Barcelona (Agbar), Barcelona
By age 25, Nouvel completed school and entered into his own partnership with François Seigneur. Parents sent them work, and gave Nouvel a valuable recommendation to the chairperson 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] Early on in 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, together with Architecture-Studio, 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 Rome, Geneva, Madrid and Barcelona. They are working on 30 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

Culture and Convention Center (2000) in Lucerne
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]

Main article: List of Jean Nouvel works

Gasometer A (2001) in Vienna

Monolith for Expo.02 (2002) in Switzerland

Tower 25, Nicosia, 2011
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.

Notable works
1987 – Nemausus 1 (Housing, 114 apartments), Nîmes, France
1987 – Arab World Institute (together with Architecture-Studio), Paris, France[11]
1994 – Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain (Office / Cultural), Paris, France[12]
1995 – Euralille, (Retail / Office / Housing), Lille, France
2000 – Culture and Convention Center (Performance Space / Conference Hall / Museum / Restaurant), Lucerne, Switzerland
2000 – Palais de Justice, Nantes, France
2001 – Golden Angel (Zlatý Anděl), Prague, Czech Republic
2002 – Monolith of Expo.02, Murten, Switzerland[13]
2004 – Torre Agbar (Office), Barcelona, Spain[14]
2004 – Museum Two, Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, South Korea[15]
2005 – Reina Sofía Museum expansion, Madrid, Spain
2006 – Musée du quai Branly, Paris, France
2006 – Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis, MN, USA
2009 – Copenhagen Concert Hall, Copenhagen, Denmark[16]
2010 – 100 Eleventh Avenue, Manhattan, NY, USA.[17][18]
2010 – Serpentine Gallery temporary pavilion, London[19]
2010 – One New Change, London
2011 – Tower 25 in Nicosia
2012 – Doha Tower skyscraper, Doha, Qatar[20]
2012 – City Hall, Montpellier.[21]
2015 – Philharmonie de Paris, Paris.[22]
2016 – Le Nouvel Residences, Kuala Lumpur.
2017 – Louvre Abu Dhabi
Under construction
The 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.
The Stelios Ioannou Learning Resource Center is an under construction project for the University of Cyprus in Nicosia. The project is expected to be completed in 2018.[23]
In November 2006, Hines commissioned Nouvel to build a new 82-story tower, named first the Tour de Verre, later to become 53W53, next to the Museum of Modern Art in Midtown Manhattan. The tower is scheduled to open in 2018. It will contain luxury apartments and three floors (2nd, 4th, and 5th) will be used by MoMA to expand its exhibition space.[24]
In March 2010, Jean Nouvel presented his plans for the National Museum of Qatar. In September 2011, Qatar approved the $434 million museum project. The museum is currently under construction.[25]
Jean Nouvel is one of the architects involved in the designing of the new Slussen in Stockholm.[26]
In February 2008, Nouvel agreed to design a 45-story luxury condo tower in upscale Century City section of Los Angeles. 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.[27]
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 2015)[28]
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]
2003 – The Carnegie Science Center addition by Nouvel in Pittsburgh was never realized. Nouvel’s winning design ended up being too expensive and Nouvel’s contract was terminated by the Carnegie Science Center, citing a “dramatic difference between the budget for the project and the estimated cost.”[29]
On Tuesday 27 May 2008 Nouvel’s design won the contest for the upcoming Tour Signal in La Défense.[30]
Awards and honors
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
Honorary degrees from the University of Buenos Aires (1983), the Royal College of Art, London (2002) and the University of Naples (2002).[5]
Honorary fellow of the American Institute of Architects (1993) and of the Royal Institute of British Architects (1995).[5]
In 1997, Nouvel was named Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He first joined the order in 1983. He is also Chevalier de la légion d’honneur.[4]
2005 – Wolf Prize in Arts[2]
2008 – Pritzker Prize[3]
Distinctions for projects
1989 Aga Khan Award for Architecture for the Institut du Monde Arabe.[1][5] In 1987, the building also won the Équerre d’Argent awarded yearly to the best building in France.[31]
2010 Wallpaper* Magazine Design Award, Best new public house category for Copenhagen Concert Hall[32]
2001 – Centre Pompidou, Paris[5]
2005 – Louisiana Museum of Modern Art[6]
“Aga Khan Award for Architecture; The Fourth Award Cycle, 1987–1989”. Aga Khan Development Network. Archived from the original on 15 March 2008. Retrieved 30 March 2008.
“THE 2005 Wolf Foundation Prize in the Arts”. Wolf Foundation. Archived from the original on 14 September 2007. Retrieved 30 March 2008.
Robin Pogrebin (30 March 2008). “French Architect Wins Pritzker Prize”. The New York Times. Retrieved 30 March 2008.
“Media Kit announcing the 2008 Pritzker architecture Prize Laureate” (PDF). The Hyatt Foundation. 31 March 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 April 2008. Retrieved 31 March 2008.
“Press release for a 2001–2002 retrospective of Nouvel’s work” (PDF). Centre Pompidou. 2001. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 April 2008. Retrieved 30 March 2008.. A shorter version in English is also available.
Alain Adam (Winter 2006). “Not all Sweetness and Light at Quai Branly”. State of Art (8). Archived from the original on 10 March 2008.
Slenske, Michael (20 March 2008). “Pocket Rocket”. Advance Publications via Archived from the original on 24 March 2008. Retrieved 2 April 2008.
“Nouvel wins top architect’s prize”. BBC News. 31 March 2008. Retrieved 31 March 2008.
“Project List – 2000–2007 – Ateliers Jean Nouvel” (PDF). The Hyatt Foundation. 31 March 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 April 2008. Retrieved 31 March 2008.
“The Pritzker Architecture Prize 2008 Presented to Jean Nouvel” (PDF). The Hyatt Foundation. 31 March 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 April 2008. Retrieved 31 March 2008.
“Photos at”. Archived from the original on 31 August 2004. Retrieved 28 September 2004.
“Photo”. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
Torre Agbar at Structurae
CNN Go Seoul’s best museums Archived 28 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine. 27 October 2011. Retrieved 4 November 2011
“Copenhagen Concert Hall project description”. Danmarks Radio website. Retrieved 17 January 2009.
Mindlin, Alex (11 February 2007). “After a 37-Year Run, a Roadside Venus to Be Veiled”. The New York Times.
Ouroussoff, Nicolai (15 March 2010). “At the Corner of Grit and Glamour”. The New York Times. Retrieved 19 November 2013.
Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2010
“Flying High in Qatar”.
“Le nouvel hôtel de ville – Portail Ville de Montpellier”. Ville de Montpellier.
“Συνεχής ενημέρωση για το πλαίσιο λειτουργίας της Βιβλιοθήκης κατά την περίοδο μετεγκατάστασης στο νέο κτήριο Κέντρο Πληροφόρησης – Βιβλιοθήκη «Στέλιος Ιωάννου»”. University of Cyprus Library. University of Cyprus Library. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
Ouroussoff, Nicolai (15 November 2007). “Next to MoMA, a Tower Will Reach for the Stars”. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
Brass, Kevin, “Qatar awards $434 million museum work to Hyundai”, The National, September 5, 2011.
“Arkitektstjärnor slåss om Slussen”. Dagens Nyheter. Archived from the original on 11 June 2011. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
Vincent, Roger (7 February 2008). “New heights of luxury in Century City”. Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 4 March 2008. Retrieved 30 March 2008.
“Philharmonie de Paris (Paris Symphony Hall)”. The Design Build Network. Retrieved 30 March 2008.
Lowry, Patricia. “Science center drops French architect as price outraces budget”. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
Lebow, Arthur (6 April 2008). “The Contextualizer”. The New York Times. p. 4; excerpt, “…a skyscraper that Nouvel (adapting a term from the artist Brâncuși) 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.”.
List of winners of the Équerre d’Argent, Groupe Moniteur.
“Design Awards 2010: the winners”. Wallpaper. Retrieved 21 April 2010.
External links
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Buildings by Jean Nouvel.
Official website
Jean Nouvel biography and works
Vanity Fair Interview
Buildings by Jean Nouvel
Jean Nouvel Architecture on Google maps