Designer of the Dentsu Tower in Tokyo, the Galeries Lafayette in Berlin, and the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, USA, Jean Nouvel is one of the most sought-after and popular contemporary architects.
Born in France in 1945, Nouvel completed his studies at the École supérieure des beaux-arts in Paris, after which he apprenticed with Claude Parent, who had a major influence on his work. In 1970, he founded his first firm with François Seigneur. The two men remained affiliated until 1974, after which they went their separate ways. Nouvel founded and organized several architectural events, including the 1978 Paris Biennale and the competition for the development of Les Halles de Paris in 1975. Nouvel also led a movement of architects, Mars 1976, who wanted a renewal of architecture. It was not until 1994 that Jean Nouvel founded his own architectural studio, which he still heads today. Today, the Ateliers Jean Nouvel employs more than 100 people in France, Spain, Switzerland, and Italy.
After several small buildings in various regions of France, Nouvel was chosen to build the Institut de monde Arabe in Paris (IMA). The building, completed in 1987, blends elements of French culture (the main façade faces the historic district of Paris) with traditional Arab architecture, the roof being set with more than 200 automatic moucharabiehs (ventilation devices developed in Arab architecture as early as the 17th century). The success of the IMA opened many doors for Nouvel: in 1993, he directed the renovation of the Lyon Opera House, and in 1994, he continued with the immense all-glass building of the Fondation Cartier in Paris.
Jean Nouvel is a versatile and innovative architect who never shies away from a challenge.
Although Nouvel refuses to admit that he has his own style, because he is constantly innovating and imagining each building for its particular social, cultural, and geographical context, several elements are inherent in the majority of his constructions. The combination of glass and metal, which allows for incredible plays of light, is one of his discreet but perceptible signatures. Working for large private firms as well as for museums and governments (he has designed elementary school and social housing, for example), Jean Nouvel is a versatile and innovative architect who never shies away from a challenge.
In addition to architecture, Nouvel has been interested in scenography and museography, notably by organizing the Quai Branly, a museum he also designed. His interior design firm, Jean Nouvel Design, draws on his architectural creations to create unique furniture pieces that transcend traditional design categories.