Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Jean Nouvel and the Pritzker
Here in Minneapolis, Ralph Rapson's death overshadowed the news of Jean Nouvel winning the Pritzker Prize, architecture's top award. The French architect designed the midnight blue Guthrie Theatre on the Mississippi River.

The Los Angeles Times writes that "Nouvel's finest work, unabashedly theatrical, makes the case that his profession's most important contribution to the larger culture is its ability to use the most unyielding and practical of materials and forces — steel, glass, sheetrock, physics — to elicit genuine emotion among visitors. In certain projects by Nouvel, the arrangement of those materials, paradoxically enough, seems to cause the physical world to recede, giving ground to desire and memory. He has often compared himself to a film director, and the experience of walking into one of his buildings is not unlike entering a darkened movie theater."

While the award is given to a single architect, such men and women are far from soloists. In addition to teaming with talented people at their own firms, they also work with structural engineers and others. Which is why Slate is questioning why the Pritzker is awarded to stars like Nouvel instead of firms or teams. "The Pritzker Prize promotes the fiction that buildings spring from the imagination of an individual architect—the master builder," writes Witold Rybczynski.

For an interview with Nouvel, check out this story in Design Boom. A video excerpt appears below.

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