I am a hedonist, and I want to give pleasure to other people.”
“Of course, you can find a lot of contradictions between all my buildings,” Nouvel told me. “I have no global reasons; I have particular reasons.” Other critically praised architectural firms, like Herzog & de Meuron and Rem Koolhaas’s Office for Metropolitan Architecture, make similar claims. Nouvel’s projects, however, lack not only a recurring formal vocabulary but even a readily apparent common sensibility.Nouvel is, at 62, a bulky man with an enormous shaved head, an intense gaze, bushy black eyebrows and anall-black wardrobe that he often complements with a broad-brimmed black hat. He makes an unmistakable impression, yet despite his powerful personality, he is exceptionally good at allowing a building to take on a personality of its own. With some of his projects, that personality is coolly and irresistibly seductive, and with others, it is brassy, even cheesy.
“He’s precarious,” explained Gehry, who was on the awards jury until last year. “He tries things, and not everything works. There’s a mixture of things that are extraordinary, things that are experiments, things that don’t come off aesthetically. But Jean is willing to jump in and take on things and try. That’s a great quality.”This is what Nouvel calls a “game” — the French word “jeu” can also refer to the play of light on a surface, a pun or a witticism, all of which seem appropriate to the architectural games he loves.“It’s a game with the spirits of the dead people, so you see the reflections like ghosts,” he said.