Page N1.2 . 30 May 2001                     
ArchitectureWeek - News Department
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Jean Nouvel Wins RIBA Gold


Nouvel was active in setting up experimental and organizational groups: "Mars," the Syndicat de l'Architecture, and the Paris Biennale. A glance at his international friends is revealing: Bernard Tschumi, Ron Arad, Will Alsop, or Future Systems, for example: also technical lyricists. In such friendships he has proved to be intellectually and personally generous.

In his buildings, his ability to render the layering of glass, the undulation of a building's profile, or the weaving of filtered screens can only — and rarely — be matched even in Japan. In the Arab Institute in Paris, his first seminal building, the delicacy of mechanical screens is contrasted with the clarity of a sharp, glass diagram.

Also in the mid-1980s he created one of the most poetic essays in metal: the deceptively modest Hotel de Saint-James near Bordeaux. Here, as in many of his hotels and housing projects, often made on tight budgets, he combines ingenuity in planning and extraordinarily winsome detailing with an unforgettable figuration.

His work is haunting.

The Opera at Lyon consists of a giant, filtered barrel that is superimposed on the massive 19th century base and achieves a completeness of the total building that would daunt any lesser designer.

Such élan can be found in the sweeping form of the conference center of Tours, or the shimmering glass matrix of the Fondation Cartier in Paris that introduces a play between the delicacy of fine strips of metal, the layers of surrounding trees, and the continual trompe-l'oeil potential of reflected glass.

It is probably the Cultural and Congress Centre of Lucerne that has convinced even the doubters of Nouvel's superb abilities with both overall form and detail manipulation. Three structures are aligned perpendicularly beneath a huge horizontal plane that seems to float beneath earth and sky and finishes in a huge overhang of 150 feet (45 meters).

The sweep of this is highlighted by the sharp line of the edges of the sail and by the elegantly flat aluminum panels which reflect, 70 feet (21 meters) from the ground, the vibrations of the lake.

With structures emerging from Prague, Minneapolis, and Japan, Nouvel confirms his position as a consistently impressive architect.

Professor Peter Cook, AADIPL, BDA, RIBA, FRSA, EASA, is the chair of the School of Architecture, Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment, University College London. He was a member of this year's RIBA jury.

The Royal Gold Medal for Architecture, inaugurated by Queen Victoria in 1848, is conferred annually on a person whose body of work has promoted the international advancement of architecture.

This year's jury included RIBA President Marco Goldschmied, Peter Cook, Piers Gough, Amanda Levete, Richard MacCormac, and David Rock. Previous winners have included Frank Gehry, Sir Edwin Lutyens, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Tadao Ando, Norman Foster, and Richard Rogers.



ArchWeek Photo

The extension to the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid
Photo: Philippe Ruault

ArchWeek Photo

Cultural and Congress Centre of Lucerne, view from the lake.
Photo: Philippe Ruault

ArchWeek Photo

Facade, Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris.
Photo: Philippe Ruault

ArchWeek Photo

Entry gate, Institut du Monde Arabe.
Photo: Kevin Matthews

ArchWeek Photo

A wall composed of an array of metallic diaphragms set in pierced metal borders.
Photo: Kevin Matthews

ArchWeek Photo

Interior, Institut du Monde Arabe.
Photo: Kevin Matthews

ArchWeek Photo

Live walkthrough 3D model of Institut du Monde Arabe free to download and explore from all viewpoints.
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