Symbolic Statements
Jean Nouvel


Jean Nouvel, 1989

©Monica Pidgeon

I think that architecture is not only a game with space. And the meaning of architecture changes with time and with history. I think that architecture now, it's not only the game of the shadows that Le Corbusier said. I think that architecture now, it's only to put signs of culture of civilisations in buildings in many, many ways. You can use graphism, you can use design, you can use light; it's not only a geometric and spatial game. I think also that architecture is the contextual and conceptual game. The first context very important for me is the context of history. I try to build buildings which I could not build twenty years ago. The other very important context is the human context. You cannot build the same building with different persons - contractors, client, engineers, and also many, many consultants. On each project I make the choice of a team, of a very specific team, and I work with a "scenograph", with an artist; for the Arab Institute with a professor of Arabic language, and so on. On every project I had a different team around me and generally I explain that I work exactly like a director of a movie.


Institut De Monde Arabe, Paris, 1981 - 1988. Top: View Across Seine From North-East. Bottom: South Facade With Sorbonne Beyond. View From South-West

©Monica Pidgeon

In 1981 the first Presidential project was the Arabian Institute. It's a cultural centre with exhibitions, museum, library, auditorium, restaurant, and so on. It's not really an institute. Nobody teaches in this building. It's a very particular site just at the limit of two landscapes of the city. During two thousand years this place was the limit of Paris. In the nineteenth century new suburbs were built on this place, the market of wine and the zoological garden and a station. But just in front, on the opposite side of the street was the University, La Sorbonne, and many, many, very, very old houses of the twelfth century. This building is just at the joint of two urban designs, one very old and one very new, very modern, and this building is exactly like a joint. On one side, the size of the building is exactly the size of the modern buildings of the University, and is built on a line extension of the modem University, and I create a very large and deep pedestrian place, and you can go from the Boulevard Saint-Germain to the Jardin des Plantes by this pedestrian place.

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