Jean Nouvel Pritzker Prize
by Kevin Matthews
In a world where so much contemporary construction is so repetitively mundane, in the majority, and so dissociatively egotistical, in the contrasting minority, it is a deepening pleasure to celebrate poetically bold, eloquently sensitive, contextually beautiful work.
And that's just the celebration we find in the 2008 Pritzker Prize award to Jean Nouvel of France.
Recent commentaries have described Jean Nouvel as an architect who is constantly experimenting. I don't see it quite that way. From my corner, Jean Nouvel looks like an architect who is constantly designing.
Nouvel's inspiring buildings are constantly variable, but not so much by constant experiments. Rather, informed by place and program, Nouvel's architectural concepts draw on a wide-ranging and open-ended bag of aesthetic, spatial, material, theatrical, and observational devices.
These devices evolve and expand across Nouvel's body of work, but in his most exemplary buildings, the ideas are very finely worked out indeed. And his designs are conceived with a profound depth of talent in selecting, orchestrating, and deploying his chosen architectural effects. The work is consistently fresh, giving a real sense of ongoing investigation.
But each project is also much more true to its situation in place and time than if the essence of the method were experimental.
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