Jean Nouvel

Jean Nouvel

Jean Nouvel in 2009
Born (1945-08-12) 12 August 1945
Fumel, Lot-et-Garonne, France
Nationality French
Alma mater École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts
Occupation Architect
Awards Aga Khan Award for Architecture (Arab World Institute),
Pritzker Prize,
Wolf Prize in Arts,
Praemium Imperiale
Practice Ateliers Jean Nouvel
Buildings Arab World Institute, Paris,
Culture and Congress Centre, Lucerne,
Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis,
Torre Agbar, Barcelona,
Musée du quai Branly, Paris, Fondation Cartier, Paris
Projects Philharmonie de Paris (2012),
Louvre Abu Dhabi (in progress)

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]


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 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

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]


Monolith for Expo.02 (2002) in Switzerland
Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid, 2005
La Philharmonie de Paris, 2015

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

Under construction


Abandoned projects

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

Distinctions for projects



  1. 1 2 "Aga Khan Award for Architecture; The Fourth Award Cycle, 1987–1989". Aga Khan Development Network. Retrieved 30 March 2008.
  2. 1 2 "THE 2005 Wolf Foundation Prize in the Arts". Wolf Foundation. Retrieved 30 March 2008.
  3. 1 2 3 Robin Pogrebin (30 March 2008). "French Architect Wins Pritzker Prize". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 March 2008.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 "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.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Press release for a 2001–2002 retrospective of Nouvel's work" (PDF). Centre Pompidou. 2001. Retrieved 30 March 2008.. A shorter version in English is also available.
  6. 1 2 Alain Adam (Winter 2006). "Not all Sweetness and Light at Quai Branly". State of Art (8).
  7. Slenske, Michael (20 March 2008). "Pocket Rocket". Advance Publications via Retrieved 2 April 2008.
  8. 1 2 "Nouvel wins top architect's prize". BBC News. 31 March 2008. Retrieved 31 March 2008.
  9. "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.
  10. "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.
  11. Photos at
  12. "Photo". Retrieved 31 March 2012.
  13. Photo
  14. Torre Agbar at Structurae
  15. CNN Go Seoul's best museums 27 October 2011. Retrieved 4 November 2011
  16. "Copenhagen Concert Hall project description". Danmarks Radio website. Retrieved 17 January 2009.
  17. Mindlin, Alex (11 February 2007). "After a 37-Year Run, a Roadside Venus to Be Veiled". The New York Times.
  18. Ouroussoff, Nicolai (15 March 2010). "At the Corner of Grit and Glamour". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 November 2013.
  19. Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2010
  20. "Flying High in Qatar".
  21. "Le nouvel hôtel de ville – Portail Ville de Montpellier". Ville de Montpellier.
  23. SARA HAMDAN (26 September 2012). "After a Sputtering Start, the Louvre Abu Dhabi Project Gathers Pace". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
  24. Ouroussoff, Nicolai (15 November 2007). "Next to MoMA, Reaching for the Stars". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 March 2008.
  25. Moynihan, Colin (9 April 2008). "Planned Tower Near MoMA Widely Criticized at Hearing". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 May 2008.
  26. Brass, Kevin, "Qatar awards $434 million museum work to Hyundai", The National, September 5, 2011.
  27. "Arkitektstjärnor slåss om Slussen". Dagens Nyheter. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
  28. 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.
  29. "Philharmonie de Paris (Paris Symphony Hall)". The Design Build Network. Retrieved 30 March 2008.
  30. Lowry, Patricia. "Science center drops French architect as price outraces budget". Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  31. 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.".
  32. List of winners of the Équerre d'Argent, Groupe Moniteur.
  33. "Design Awards 2010: the winners". Wallpaper. Retrieved 21 April 2010.
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