Jean Nouvel ― An Artist who Writes Poetry of the Future, with Architectural Images
The French-born architect, Jean Nouvel, is a world-renowned figure not only in architecture but in many areas of culture and arts. Born in 1945, he got admitted to the prestigious École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris as the first in his class. His genius was already in the working at that young age.
"I put art in the architecture, and the architecture in the city."
Jean Nouvel has been active in many areas of architecture. In 1976, he led the French architectural movement, Mars 1976; in 1980, he was in charge of planning for the arts programs in the Paris architectural biennale. In 1983, he was awarded the Knight of the Order of Arts and the Letters.
The Arab cultural center in Paris, completed in 1987, is among his masterpieces; it was received with raving reviews for its simplicity that seems to express the relationship between the Arab world and the European culture, and conflicts between tradition and modernity. His other works include the Cartier foundation in Paris, Lyong opera house, and the Andel building in Prague, which was completed recently. And the completion of his Agba Tower is just around the corner, which will be Barcelona’s next monumental landmark, along with Antoni Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia church.
Jean Nouvel has expressed in many of his works the contemporary and futuristic sentiment of cities. Frequently using glass, steel, and other “cold, hard” materials, he creates sharp and sophisticated images. His designs are oftentimes described as a massive work of art. He contends that architecture be raised to join the ranks of poetry, and designs his works as dictated by his instinct and intuition, like so many artists do. A hybrid of cutting-edge technology and contemporary art esthetics, his architecture is progressive as well as provocative.
Why he designs to his intuition, and why his architecture is brimming with poetic images is revealed in his own words:
“Luckily, there is no right answer or only answer in architecture. There are only countless pathetic answers and numerous exciting answers. It is enough, therefore, for an architect to come up with a “realizable” answer. But such an answer is oftentimes (surprisingly) too simple, or clear yet (paradoxically) undecipherable.”
"Please listen to the story of spaces which are as diverse as the branches and roots of trees."
What did you feel when you decided to take the Leeum project? And what is the primary concept for the project?
I took on this project a long time ago. At that time, there were several other buildings in the lot. My initial concept was to take into consideration the relationship between the building and the topography, and to arrange the layout such that the building will be situated at the center of the dent in the lot, along with other structures.
I mean the dent by a space with long traces of the city, not a blank space or clean slate. That’s where I first started with this project, but as it became more concrete, I realized that the building must “shoot out” from the massive ground in order for it to look like it’s part of the topography. So that’s how I designed my building, and the visits to the museum will get the feeling that the structure has escaped a space deep down the Earth. Even the trees: they will be planted not where the entrance is located, but about 10 to 15 meters lower than the entrance level. The building is an embodiment of contrasts between horizontal lines and curves. It will also embody a wide variety of contours that resemble the contours of the lot. It may seem somewhat arbitrary, but the inner space to be created will be the one with many possibilities, depending on the differences and directions.