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Jean Nouvel (born August 12, 1945) is a French architect. Nouvel studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Parismarker 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 Arabemarker which Nouvel designed), the Wolf Prize in Arts in 2005 and the Pritzker Prize in 2008. A number of museums and architectural centres have presented retrospectives of his work.

Family and education

Nouvel was born August 12, 1945, in Fumelmarker, Lot-et-Garonnemarker, Francemarker, 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.

When Nouvel failed an entrance examination at the École des Beaux-Arts of Bordeauxmarker, he moved to Parismarker where he won first prize in a national competition to attend the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Artsmarker. 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.

Nouvel and filmmaker Odile Fillion married and have two sons, Bertrand, who is a post-doctorate computer scientist working at the University of Chiba in Japan, 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.


By age 25, Nouvel completed school and entered into his own partnership with François Seigneur. Parent sent them work, and gave Nouvel a valuable recommendation to the directorship of the seventh edition of the Biennale de Paris where for fifteen years, Nouvel designed exhibits and made contacts in the arts and theater. Soon into 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 Arabemarker (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.

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 in London, Copenhagen, New York, Rome, Madrid and Barcelona. As of 2008, they are working on 40 active projects in 13 countries. Nouvel designed a flacon for L'Homme, an Yves Saint Laurent fragrance, in a limited edition launched in 2008.

Pritzker Prize

Nouvel was awarded the Pritzker Prize, architecture's highest honour, in 2008, for his work on more than 200 projects, among them, in the words of The New York Times, the "exotically louvered" Arab World Institutemarker, the bullet-shaped and "candy-colored" Torre Agbarmarker in Barcelona, the "muscular" Guthrie Theatermarker with its cantilevered bridge in Minneapolis, and in Paris, the "defiant, mysterious and wildly eccentric" Musée du quai Branlymarker (2006) and the Philharmonie de Paris (a "trip into the unknown" c. 2012).

Pritzker points to several more major works: in Europe, the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art (1994), the Culture and Convention Centermarker in Lucernemarker (2000), the Opéra Nouvelmarker in Lyonmarker (2003) , Expo 2002 in Switzerland and, under construction, the Copenhagen Concert Hallmarker and the courthouse in Nantesmarker (2000); as well as two tall towers in planning in North America, Tour Verre in New York Citymarker and SunCal in Los Angelesmarker,

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.


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. In 2001 director Beat Kuert filmed a documentary about five of Nouvel's projects titled Jean Nouvel.


  • Jean Nouvel is one of the architects involved in the designing of the new Slussenmarker in Stockholmmarker.
  • On Tuesday 05/27/2008 Nouvel's design won the contest for the upcoming Tour Signal in La Défensemarker.
  • In February 2008, Nouvel agreed to design a 45-story luxury condo tower in upscale Century City section of Los Angeles, California. The tower will be of modern design -- it is designed to maximize views of the Los Angeles Country Club from the units and is opposed by both homeowners associations in Beverly Hills for the shadows it will cast on many small homes and its next door neighbor, Beverly Hills High School.
  • In November 2006, Hines commissioned Nouvel to build a new 75-story tower, named the Tour de Verre, next to the Museum of Modern Artmarker in Midtown Manhattan. The tower will house a hotel, luxury apartments and three floors (2nd, 4th, and 5th) will be used by MoMA to expand its exhibition space. The tower has ignited a controversy in New York City, with many objecting to the tower, and Community Board 5 has rejected the project.
  • In April 2007, Jean Nouvel associated with Marshall Day Acoustics Ltd won the competition to build a new Orchestra Hall (Philharmonie de Paris) in Parismarker, close to Cité de la Musiquemarker (opening in 2012)
  • The Centre for Sustainable Development in Le Havremarker, France. The project includes the construction of a 120 m high tower on a former seaport area. The project is currently on hold because of an important increase in projected costs.

Under construction

  • In March 2007, the Louvremarker announced it would build a Louvre branchmarker in the emirate of Abu Dhabimarker, on Saadiyat Island. Jean Nouvel was chosen as architect. The museum is expected to be completed by 2012.
  • A 20-story condo tower built on a parking lot at 11th Avenue and 19th Street in New York City. The tower is next to the Venus (1970) by New York painter Knox Martin[860188] on the south side of Bayview Correctional Facilitymarker and will block the 10 story mural from view. (Expected completion in 2009. The Wall Street Journal reported in August 2008 that the project is some $50 million over budget and one year behind schedule)
  • In Montpelliermarker the new Hôtel de Ville designed in partnership with François Fontès is under construction and scheduled for completion in 2011.


Abandoned projects

  • 1989 - The Tour Sans Fins (Office/High-Rise) at La Défensemarker, Francemarker, was never realized. Nouvel's winning design, proposed as Europe's tallest building in 1989, was to change ground up from granite, followed by aluminum, stainless steel and finally glass—"increasingly diaphanous before disappearing into the sky".

Awards and distinctions

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



  • Brad Pitt (an architecture aficionado) and Angelina Jolie named their first-born child Shiloh Nouvel in homage to Jean Nouvel's work.


Sources consulted


External links

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