Jean Nouvel

Jean Nouvel, born August 12, 1945 in Fumel (Lot-et-Garonne), is a contemporary French architect of international renown.

Jean Nouvel presenting his projects at Odeon, Vienna, September 2009
Jean Nouvel presenting his projects at Odeon, Vienna, September 2009


Childhood and studies

Born in Fumel (Lot-et-Garonne) into a family of teachers, Jean Nouvel spent his youth in Sarlat. Wishing to study fine arts against the advice of his parents, who wanted him to become an engineer or a teacher, Jean Nouvel chose to study architecture, convincing them to enroll in the École des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux in 1964. He was admitted to the school and in 1966, he finished first in the entrance exam for the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts in Paris, from which he graduated in 1972.

Beginnings in architecture

Influenced by Paul Virilio and Claude Parent, whose assistant he was between 1967 and 1970, he founded his first agency with François Seigneur2 in 1970. Architect of the Paris Biennial from 1971 thanks to the support of the critic Georges Boudaille, he founded the Biennial of Architecture in this context in 1978.

As an activist for a renewal of architecture in France, he co-founded the "Mars 1976" movement, in opposition to the legacy of the Athens Charter, and participated in the creation of the Syndicat de l'architecture, breaking away from the Ordre des architectes. In 1975, he was one of the main organizers of the international counter-competition for the development of Les Halles de Paris, and in 2001 he headed the Association for the mutation of the Ile Seguin (Amis) to oppose the destruction of the Renault factories.

He began his career in the Périgord region, building a nursery school in Trélissac and a villa in Champcevinel5. After his first major project, the Dick house in Saint-André-les-Vergers in 1976, he designed the Val-Notre-Dame medical and surgical center in Bezons (1976) and the Anne-Frank high school in Antony (1978)2. In 1981, he was chosen with Architecture-Studio for the realization of the first of the great Mitterrandian works, the Institut du monde arabe, whose moucharabiehs façade, completed in 1987, made him known to the general public the same year. In the 2010s, the press pointed to the maintenance costs of the building created by Jean Nouvel and Architecture-Studio, which amounted to three million euros per year6. 6 In 1984, Jack Lang, the Minister of Culture, asked him to help Carlos Ott, the architect of the Bastille Opera House, but this collaboration did not last long.

He also designed the Nemausus social housing building in Nîmes, the Lyon Opera House, which he topped with a large glass roof in 1993 that reduced the number of seats, and the Fondation Cartier in Paris, a transparent building in 1994

International Acclaim

The Lucerne Culture and Convention Centre, inaugurated in July 1999, has strengthened its international reputation. He was then entrusted with the Dentsu Tower in Tokyo, the extension of the Reina Sofía Museum in Madrid, the Agbar Tower in Barcelona and the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis.8 He remains attached to the Dordogne, where he designed the Gallo-Roman Museum in Périgord. He remained attached to the Dordogne, where he designed the Gallo-Roman museum in Périgueux, Vesunna, and the conversion of the Sainte-Marie church in Sarlat into a covered market5. Jacques Chirac chose him to build the Quai Branly Museum, inaugurated on June 23, 2006, after 11 years of work and a bill that rose from 167 to 235 million euros, due in particular to the archaeological excavations made necessary by the presence of vestiges of the 1937 World's Fair.

His creations make the most of metal and glass, playing on transparency and light effects. He regularly works for the redevelopment of old monuments, as for the Opera of Lyon or the church of Sarlat. However, he claims to have no "Nouvel style", conceiving each project as new, always in dialogue with the context of the building8. His career was rewarded with the Pritzker Prize on March 30, 2008, Thomas Pritzker emphasizing "his courageous search for new ideas and his questioning of accepted norms in order to push back the limits of his field of activity," and recognizing him for his "persistence, imagination, exuberance, and, above all, an insatiable desire to experiment".

Successively associated with François Seigneur and Gilbert Lézénès in 1972, Gilbert Lézènés and Pierre Soria in 1981, Emmanuel Blamont, Jean-Marc Ibos and Myrto Vitart in 1984, and Emmanuel Cattani in 1989, he founded his own workshop in 1994. Heading a team of 150 collaborators4, he has offices in Paris, Spain, Switzerland and Italy for the realization of his various projects: the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the Philharmonie de Paris (in addition to the Cité de la musique), the 53W53 tower in Manhattan (where an apartment on the 36th floor sells for more than six million dollars) and the National Museum of Qatar.

In addition to architecture, he is also interested in scenography, in particular through his meeting with Jacques Le Marquet in 1976, participating in the exhibitions "Les Années 50" at the Centre Pompidou in 1988, as well as "Le Futur du travail" and "La Mobilité" at Expo 2000 in Hanover2. He also directed dance shows and was responsible for the museography of the Quai Branly4. At the head of Jean Nouvel Design, he also produces numerous creations.

On December 16, 2018, as part of a partnership between the city of Algiers and the Île-de-France region, Jean Nouvel was appointed to draw up a plan for the safeguarding and revitalization of the La Casbah district, a World Heritage Site. The appointment of a French architect created a controversy and a petition asked Jean Nouvel to abandon the project.

Positions and controversies

Jean Nouvel, in an article in the newspaper Le Monde in 2017 denounced an irresponsible "Ubu-urbanism" and absurd rules that lead to the "visual trashing" of urban space, particularly in social neighborhoods and so-called "sensitive" urban areas, which leads to dramatic consequences for residents: "unreasonable travel time, often deadly pollution, social, functional and spatial segregation, increasingly smaller apartment sizes..." According to him, it is through the creation of houses for all in the heart of the neighborhoods, the "sanctuarization" of peripheral agricultural land still threatened by urban expansion and the enhancement of architecture in its societal integration functions that the suburbs can be saved.

Questioned about his contracts with authoritarian regimes in the Middle East, he defends himself by explaining his ethics: "Architecture is for me a cultural act, whose purpose is to make it possible and easier for people to live in a place. He adds, "I work on the scale of the century or centuries, for the people, not for a person punctually in power."

Questioned in November 2017 by Swiss journalist Serge Enderlin for Swiss Radio Television about the working conditions and exploitation of workers at the Louvre Abu Dhabi construction site, the architect dismisses any responsibility: "I think there is a particular focus on subjects, which may be acute, but it is up to you to raise them."

For Jean Nouvel, the architecture of a building must fit into its environment:

"Architecture is the search for the best solution to a particular problem. It is also the petrification of a cultural moment. The city bears witness to what interested our ancestors. It is a museum, by force of circumstance. The worrying thing is that, for almost a century, on a planetary scale, we have been building buildings designed a priori in design offices, then parachuted in, with no relation to the geography, the climate, the history of the city. [We have a repetition of interchangeable buildings, a succession of autistic objects, without coherence, without work on the transitions between them. A planetary cloning that makes me despair.

Malfunctions and undervaluations

The defects on the Palais de Justice in Nantes amount to more than 8 million euros.

The Philharmonie de Paris is experiencing a price explosion linked to an underestimation of the budget, which rose from 136 million euros in 2006 to 286 million euros in 2012, due in particular to a certain number of defects.



  • 1983: Silver medal of the French Academy of Architecture Award
  • 1987: Grand prix national de l'architecture, Aga Khan Prize
  • 1987: Winner of the Équerre d'argent for the Institut du monde arabe.
  • 1990: Architectural Record Prize for the Saint-James Hotel.
  • 1999: Gold Medal of the Academy of Architecture.
  • 2000: Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale.
  • 2001: Royal Gold Medal for architecture, RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects).
  • 2001: Premio Internazionale di Architettura Francesco Borromini.
  • 2001: Praemium Imperiale in architecture, awarded by the Japanese Fine Arts Association.
  • 2005: Wolf Foundation Prize in Arts (Architecture).
  • 2006: Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture.
  • 2006: Crystal Globe for Best Architect.
  • 2006 : International Highrise Award for the Agbar Tower in Barcelona.
  • 2008 : Pritzker Prize for the Arab World Institute.
  • 2012: Best Tall Building Worldwide and Middle East & Africa Award from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) for the Doha Office Tower (Qatar).


  • 1983: Honorary doctorate from the University of Buenos Aires.
  • 1993: Honorary fellow, AIA Chicago (American Institute of Architects).
  • 1995: Honorary fellow, RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects).
  • 2002: Honorary Fellow, Royal College of Art, London.
  • 2006: Honorary Doctorate from the Superior Institute of Arts of Cuba.
  • 2013: Honorary Doctorate from the Catholic University of Leuven.


  • Officer of the Legion of Honor Officer of the Legion of Honor He was knighted on July 13, 200126 for his 35 years of professional activities, then promoted to Officer on July 13, 2010.
  • Officer of the National Order of Merit He was knighted on April 13, 1988, then promoted to Officer on May 15, 2006.
  • Commandeur de l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres Commander of the order of Arts and Letters He was made a commander on November 15, 1990.


Main achievements

  • 1976: Val-Notre-Dame medical and surgical center in Bezons in the Val-d'Oise.
  • 1978: Collège Anne-Frank in Antony in the Hauts-de-Seine.
  • 1979: Maison Dick in Saint-André-les-Vergers.
  • 1981-1987 : Arab World Institute in Paris.
  • 1981-1987 : La Coupole cultural center in Combs-La-Ville in Seine-et-Marne.
  • 1983: Municipal Theater of Belfort.
  • 1985-1987: Nemausus 1 (114 homes) in Nîmes.
  • 1986-1994: Renovation of the Lyon Opera House.
  • 1986: Complexe omnisports du Luzard (COSOM) in Noisiel.
  • 1987-1989: Saint-James Hotel in Bouliac.
  • 1988: INIST in Vandœuvre-lès-Nancy.
  • 1988: Onyx in Saint-Herblain.
  • 1990: Congress Center (Le Vinci) in Tours.
  • 1991: Lanaud center near Limoges.
  • 1991-1995: Galeries Lafayette in Berlin, Germany.
  • 1994: Cartier Foundation in Paris.
  • 1995: Euralille shopping center in Lille, (Rem Koolhaas being the architect-urban planner to design the entire urban project).
  • 1998: Dentsu Building in Tokyo, Japan.
  • 1999: Lucerne Palace of Culture and Congress in Switzerland.
  • 2000: Palais de justice in Nantes, France.
  • 1998-2002: Arteplage in Morat, Switzerland, for Expo.02.
  • 1999-2001: Kölnturm in Cologne, Germany.
  • 1999-2002: Rehabilitation of the Vienna Gasometers in Austria.
  • 2001: Extension of the national museum Queen Sophia Art Center in Madrid, Spain.
  • 2002: Monolith of the Expo.02 in Morat, Switzerland (photo).
  • 2001: Doors of the Sainte-Marie church in Sarlat, France, converted into a covered market.
  • 2001-2003: Agbar Tower in Barcelona, Spain.
  • 2003: Vesunna Museum in Périgueux.
  • 2006 : Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, USA.
  • Quai Branly Museum (Musée des Arts premiers) in Paris.
  • 2007 : Head office of the company Richemont, in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • 2008 : The wine cellars, at Château La Coste, Le Puy-Sainte-Réparade, France.
  • Les Bains des Docks (aquatic complex) in Le Havre.
  • 2008-2009: Participation in the consultation "Le Grand Pari(s) de l'agglomération parisienne".
  • 2009 : Danish Radio Symphony Hall in Copenhagen, Denmark.
  • H&M, 88-90 avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris.
  • 100 Eleventh Avenue in New York, USA.
  • Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom-Stilwerk in Vienna, Austria.
  • One New Change in London, United Kingdom.
  • Ferrari factory in Modena, Italy.
  • 2011 :
  • New city hall in Montpellier.
  • Théâtre de l'Archipel in Perpignan.
  • Horizons Tower in Boulogne-Billancourt
  • Housing Foncière ING in Bordeaux.
  • High Rise Office Building in Doha, Qatar.
  • 2012 :
  • Renaissance Hotel in Barcelona (Spain).
  • RBC Design Center in Montpellier.
  • Life Marina in Ibiza, Spain.
  • 2014 :
  • One Central Park in Sydney, Australia.
  • New police station in Charleroi, the Blue Tower and extensions of Charleroi Danses in Belgium.
  • Imagine Institute for Genetic Diseases in Paris.
  • New winery at Chateau La Dominique in Saint-Émilion, France.
  • 2015 :
  • Philharmonie de Paris, Parc de la Villette in Paris.
  • Cap Mail, a luxury residential building in Rennes32.
  • White Walls Tower in Nicosia, Cyprus.
  • 2017: Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum in Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates). Inauguration on November 7, 2017 in the presence of Khalifa ben Zayed Al Nahyane and Emmanuel Macron.
  • 2018 : La Marseillaise, a 135-meter office tower in the Euroméditerranée area in Marseille33.
  • 2018: European Patent Office (EPO) tower in The Hague34.
  • 2019 : Ycone Tower in Lyon35.
  • 2019: Qatar National Museum in Doha, shaped like a sand rose36. Inaugurated March 27, 2019.

Projects in progress

  • 2008: The 53W53 tower, a 75-story skyscraper in New York City. Project status in 201537. Status in 2019 11.
  • 2010: Development plan for the Ile Seguin in Boulogne-Billancourt38.
  • 2011: Development project for the Jean-Zay university residence in Antony.
  • 2017: Construction of the five CEVA stations (cross-border RER between Geneva-Cornavin and Annemasse).
  • 2018: Duo Towers, consisting of two towers (175 meters and 115 meters) in the ZAC Paris Rive Gauche, 13th arrondissement of Paris39.
  • 2018: Tour Hekla in La Défense, a project consisting of an office tower and a student housing building.
  • 2018 : Headquarters of the European Patent Office in Ryswick in the Netherlands.
  • 2018: Agreement signed with the Wilaya of Algiers to "revitalize" the Casbah of Algiers, a project that has generated controversy.40
  • 2019 : Nice Meridia (affordable and subsidized housing).
  • 2019 : Luxury tourist complex in the archaeological site of Al-'Ula in Saudi Arabia41.

Unrealized projects

  • 1989: La Tour sans fin in La Défense (winning project, not realized, photos).
  • 1994 : Grand Stade de Saint-Denis (winning project of the international competition but refused by the government of Edouard Balladur)42
  • 2002: Guggenheim Museum project in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (in the tradition of the Guggenheim Foundation museums in New York, Bilbao, Berlin, Venice and Las Vegas).
  • 2005: Dubai Opera House (winning project, not realized).
  • 2008: Tour Signal in La Défense (winning project, not realized).


  • Patrice Goulet, Jean Nouvel and Philippe Ruault, Jean Nouvel, Paris, Les éditions du Regard, coll. "Monographies", 1994, 262 p. (ISBN 978-2-84105-043-7)
  • Jean Baudrillard et Jean Nouvel, Les objets singuliers, Paris, Éditions Calmann-Lévy, coll. " Petite bibliothèque des idées ", 2000, 125 p. (ISBN 978-2-7021-3043-8)
  • Jean Nouvel, Yann Kersalé, Jacques Hondelatte, Régis Durand, Anne-Marie Cocula, Mireille Bénéjeam, L'église Sainte-Marie de Sarlat, Bordeaux, France, Éditions Le Festin, coll. " Librairie de l'architecture et de la ville ", 2001, 84 p. (ISBN 978-2-909423-82-1)
  • Jean Nouvel, Yann Kersalé, Hubert Tonka, and Régis Durand, L'Inattendu muséal selon Jean Nouvel, Bordeaux, France, Éditions Le Festin, coll. " Librairie de l'architecture et de la ville ", 2001, 64 p. (ISBN 978-2-909423-83-8)
  • Jean Nouvel, Fabrice Bousteau, Caroline Cros, and Malika Bauwens (Collective), César : Anthologie par Jean Nouvel, Bordeaux, France, Beaux Arts Éditions, coll. " - Beaux Arts Expositions ", 2008, 42 p. (ISBN 978-2-84278-628-1)
  • Daniel Giralt-Miracle and Jean Nouvel, Ribas & Ribas, Barcelona, Spain, Viena Ediciones, 2009, 528 p. (ISBN 978-84-8330-520-1)
  • Marco Casamonti and Christine Piot (transl. from Italian), Jean Nouvel, Arles, France, Éditions Actes Sud, coll. " Grands architectes ", 2008, 119 p. (ISBN 978-2-7427-7661-0)
  • François Chaslin, Jean Nouvel critiques, Gollion, Switzerland, Éditions Infolio, coll. " Archigraphy ", 2008, 270 p. (ISBN 978-2-88474-093-7)
  • Philip Jodidio, Jean Nouvel by Jean Nouvel. Complete Works 1970-2008, Cologne, Paris, Éditions Taschen, 2009, 896 p. (ISBN 978-3-8228-5772-4)
  • Prouvé/Nouvel-Ferembal House, Paris, Éditions Galerie Patrick Seguin, 2011, 334 pp. (ISBN 978-2-909187-01-3)
  • Christian Bachelier, Théâtre de l'Archipel : Genèse et émergence d'une œuvre d'art, Saint-Estève, Alliance Éditions, 2012, 256 p. (ISBN 978-2-916666-13-6, online presentation)

Films and videos

  • Daniel Buren-Jean Nouvel, by Gilles Coudert (1994, 112 min, a.p.r.e.s production). Conference-interview between the artist Daniel Buren and Jean Nouvel organized by the Centre de création contemporaine de Tours and the François-Rabelais University.
  • Jean Nouvel, l'esthétique du miracle, by Beat Kuert (1998, 55 min).
  • Nemausus 1, a low-cost housing project from the 1980s, by Richard Copans and Stan Neumann (1995, 26 min). Film of the collection "Architectures", broadcast on the Arte channel.
  • Jean Nouvel, Les traits de l'architecte, by Odile Fillion; (2008, 52 min). Collection Empreintes, broadcast on France 5.
  • Video presentation of the work.
  • Jean Nouvel and Jean-Charles Blais (March 2010, 1,20 min) Youtube.
  • Pardonnez-moi - L'interview de Jean Nouvel par la Radio Télévision Suisse (24')


  • From October 27, 2016 to February 12, 2017, an exhibition is dedicated to him at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris43.


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