Wolf Prize Laureate in Architecture 2005
“for providing a new model of contextualism and redefining the dialectic between the two salient characteristics of contemporary architecture: concreteness and ephemerality”.
With his “principle of inclusion”, Jean Nouvel deploys the richest of palettes available to the contemporary architect. In each of his proposals and works, the result is exceptional. Nouvel does not impose a priori forms or materials. For him, architectural form follows neither from the architect’s vocabulary, nor from a predictable response to context. Rather, the proposed and the pre-existing interact to produce a result characterized by new material assemblages. His buildings acquire a life of their own, by establishing surprising atmospheric contrasts between interior and surroundings, and between discrete architectural spaces and the metropolitan network in which they are situated.
Rapidly changing modes of computational communication imply an astonishing range of spatial variables. Nouvel responds by giving definition to a variety of programmatic demands. He demonstrates the distinctive capacity of architecture to test and sustain technological advancements in spatial and material terms. His architecture is infused with hitherto unforeseen potentials of a new, digitally transformed world. Experimental engineering and inventive methods of assembly are combined to produce a three-dimensional reality that shares an affinity with the virtual, imaginary one. The production of images, light and sound, is unified with the plastic definition of space, to create a distinctively ‘ambiguous’ situation. Ultimately, what is uniquely effective in the work of Nouvel is the role it has played in forming a new model of contextualism. It distinguishes itself from more traditional models by means of novel interventions, aimed at reformulating the dialectic between the two reigning parameters of the digital universe: concreteness and ephemerality.