A Nouvel idea.


During my recent visit to Paris I made my way over to the Cartier Foundation, primarily to see the David Lynch exhibit. Secondarily, I was interested in the building itself, as it was designed by Jean Nouvel, though earlier in the week I had passed the L’Institut du Monde Arabe (Arab Institute) and found it interesting but not quite earth shattering. I had some trouble locating the Cartier Foundation, but once I found it, it was unmistakable. A long horizontal grid of steel and glass, it’s surrounded by a planting of trees which are then surrounded by another wall of glass that is supported from the main building by long steel rods. It gives the appearance of a large greenhouse or arboritum, but the true function isn’t clear until you are inside and realize that the main gallery is surrounded on all sides by glass, allowing natural light to pour in. Trees act as a back drop behind some of the work, creating a nearly seamless blend of nature and structure. Adding to this artificially natural scene are sculptures by artist Giuseppe Penone, whose use of bronze to cast the organic forms of trees is subtle yet striking.

In the days following my visit I began to notice that Nouvel’s steel and glass aesthetic is slowly spreading through the streets of Paris. One of my favorites was the La Maison des Adolescents – Maison de Solenn by Ibos & Vitart, it is much more severe and angular than the Cartier building, but the influence of Nouvel’s materials was evident. Also, Nouvel’s concept of opening the ground levels of the building in order to create less of a division between building and public space. A Nouvel idea indeed…


(La Maison des Adolescents – Maison de Solenn)