Jean Nouvel Gets the Pritzker

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Jean Nouvel /Photo: JEAN AYISSI — AFP — GETTY

On Sunday the Pritzker Foundation announced that Jean Nouvel was this year’s winner of the Pritzker Prize, the knighthood of architecture. Here’s a link to the piece I posted on when the announcement was made. And here’s a link to a slide show we put up yesterday of his work, including the hilariously phallic Torre Agbar in Barcelona, here:

Torre Agbar, Jean Nouvel /Photo: THOMAS MAYER

Nouvel is an interesting man. Like a lot of architects he insists that his buildings must speak to the demands of their immediate surroundings. But for him this is not the same thing as room-temperature contextualism, the practice of matching a building just so to the ones around it. It has to do with reading the setting at a deeper level and finding equivalents in a new language, but not a language so new that you can’t draw a connection between past and present. You can actually analyze a Nouvel building and find the correlatives between what was there before he arrived and what he did on the site.

Which I try to explain in this piece from my encounter with Nouvel two years ago in Minneapolis.