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Jean Nouvel of France Becomes the 2008 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate

Jean Nouvel of Paris, France has been chosen as the 2008 Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. The formal ceremony for what has come to be known throughout the world as architecture’s highest honor will be held on June 2 in Washington, D.C. at the Library of Congress. At that time, a $100,000 grant and a bronze medallion will be bestowed on the 62-year old architect.

Nouvel who came to international attention with the completion of his Institut du Monde Arabe (usually referred to as IMA) in 1987 as one of President Francois Mitterand’s Grands Travaux in Paris, now has several projects in the United States, including the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis completed in 2006, a 75-story tower (Tour Verre) next door to MOMA in New York, and recently announced plans for a high rise condominium (Suncal Tower) in the Century City district of Los Angeles. In Europe, some of his other important works are the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art (Paris 1994), the Branly Museum (Paris 2006), the Agbar Tower (Barcelona 2005), a Courthouse (Nantes 2000), a Cultural and Conference Center (Lucerne 2000), an Opera House (Lyon 1993), and Expo 2002 (Switzerland). Also currently under construction is a concert hall in Copenhagen.

Although the bulk of his work is in France, he has designed projects all over the world, including Japan, Spain, England, the Netherlands, Austria, Italy, Czech Republic, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, Korea, Mexico, Israel, Brazil, Qatar, Lebanon, Cyprus, Iceland, UAE, Taiwan, Malaysia, Portugal, Kuwait, Morocco, Russia and the U.S.—well over two hundred in all.

In announcing the jury’s choice, Thomas J. Pritzker, chairman of The Hyatt Foundation, quoted from the jury citation, “Of the many phrases that might be used to describe the career of architect Jean Nouvel, foremost are those that emphasize his courageous pursuit of new ideas and his challenge of accepted norms in order to stretch the boundaries of the field.” And further, Pritzker added, “The jury acknowledged the ‘persistence, imagination, exuberance, and, above all, an insatiable urge for creative experimentation’ as qualities abundant in Nouvel’s work.”

In Nouvel’s own words, “My interest has always been in an architecture which reflects the modernity of our epoch as opposed to the rethinking of historical references. My work deals with what is happening now—our techniques and materials, what we are capable of doing today.”

Pritzker Prize jury chairman, Lord Palumbo elaborated with more of the citation: “Since establishing his Paris based practice in the 1970s, Nouvel has pushed himself, as well as those around him, to consider new approaches to conventional architectural problems.

For Nouvel, in architecture there is no “style” a priori. Rather, a context, interpreted in the broadest sense to include culture, location, program and client, provokes him to develop a different strategy for each project.”

Nouvel is the second laureate to be chosen from France, the first being Christian de Portzamparc in 1994. Although 2008 marks the thirtieth anniversary, he is the thirty-second laureate since the prize was founded in 1979. There were two laureates chosen in 1988 and again in 2001.