Photo Journal: Jean Nouvel's Design for the Philharmonie de Paris

Classic Arts News   Photo Journal: Jean Nouvel's Design for the Philharmonie de Paris
"An eye-catching design ... [which] resembles a mound of loosely stacked plates topped by a 170-foot-high sail." So writes Alan Riding in The New York Times of architect Jean Nouvel's proposal for the Philharmonie de Paris, an orchestra hall to be built in the French capital. (Have a look at the renderings below and see if you agree.)

Nouvel's design, unveiled last week, was selected earlier this month from detailed proposals by six finalists (chosen from 98 submissions). Among those six finalists were architects Zaha Hadid and Christian de Portzamparc, who designed the adjacent Cit_ de la Musique complex (which houses a science museum and a music center with several smaller auditoriums).

The aluminum-clad Philharmonie building will house a 2,400-seat auditorium in vineyard style — that is, with the audience placed in multilevel terraces arranged on all sides of the stage. Nouvel will be working with the Australian firm of Marshall Day Acoustics, associated with Yasuhisa Toyota of Nagata Acoustics, whose most famous project so far is Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.

For acoustical reasons, the rules for submissions stipulated that each member of the audience be within 100 feet of the conductor, according to the Times — thus requiring that the auditorium be constructed in vineyard style like the Berlin Philharmonic's hall, rather than in a rectangular "shoebox" design like such admired older venues as Vienna's Musikverein, Amsterdam's Concertgebouw, and Boston's Symphony Hall.

The current estimated cost of the Philharmonie de Paris, to be located in the Parc de la Villette in the northeastern part of the city, is €200 million. The Orchestre de Paris — now based at the Salle Pleyel, which recently received a €30 million renovation — will make its home in the new hall, whose opening is scheduled for 2012.

The 61-year-old Nouvel has already designed two major buildings in Paris: the Institut du Monde Arabe, completed in 1987, and the Mus_e du Quai Branly, which opened last June. He will also design the new Louvre Abu Dhabi as part of a $1.3 billion agreement between France and the United Arab Emirates, according to the Times.

Other notable Nouvel buildings include the Cultural and Congress Center in Lucerne (which hosts major Lucerne Festival concerts) and the new Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis (his first U.S. project), which opened last year. Nouvel's new concert hall in Copenhagen is scheduled for completion next year.

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