In 2006 Nice local authorities purchased the Mont Boron Battery in view of developing an architecture centre run by Jean Nouvel ho intends to promote research, creation and training at international level after complete restoration of the site. The place overlooking the Mediterranean from the top of the south slope of the Mont Boron was alreaday chosen in the Middle-Ages to build a watchtower which later became a wind mill and finally a fort. Today Jean Nouvel has chosen to make an architectural culture stronghold of it. Jean Nouvel is one of the most famous architects of his time. In three decodes he has built a rich and varied work all over the world including private and public buildings as well as complete renovations of whole town districts. The list of the awards he has won highlights the wide range of his career, the internationalism of his practice and the relevance of his creations.
From 1987 with the Equerre d'Argent, the highest French award for architecture, for the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, the High rise Award in 2006 for the Agbar Tower in Barcelona to this day the architect has been prized for works in Europe, the USA, South America, the Middle East and Asia.
Jean Nouvel's architectural language includes the concepts of modernity, de-materialisation, mutation, change, image, vegetation, urban questions, those are the topics he develops in an interview which was done by Claire Blanchet and filmed by Alain Fleischer for the Centre Pompidou 2001 exhibit of Jean Nouvel's work and can be viewed on line at « Ateliers Jean Nouvel ». It helps us understand Nouvel's though process and research field. Architecture is the art of constraints since it aims at giving answers to precise technical and programmatic questions. Therefore he describes his approach as specific, contextual and historical : « I always talk of specificity and contextuality because architecture only obtains meaning from what surrounds it and what precedes it », « thus i am always trying to modify a pre-existing state ». His work aims at improving a transitory situation : « We are working within a transition, and this transition gives us the hope of long-term improvement of urban spaces in the true urbane sense and the hope that architecture still serves a purpose ».
Jean Nouvel's primary questioning the relation between time and architecture : « For me the first specitficity is my ero ». He links his work to the « very principles of eternity and moment ».
He observes that « paradoxically a fragility or single moment often manage to bring about a building's strenghs ». Building implies first to take into account what already exists and then to create in adequacy with history and context.
He founds his work on the notion of today's modernity : « We can create complex things without knowing how they come about, that is part of the architectural language of today's modernity ». when he deals with de-materialisation : « materials nontheles exist. I'm just giving the impression that they have vanished ». He claims his architecture is one of immateriality and of interplay between materials and light to give the illusion of « the total and witful destruction of the space i create », meaning that he interplays « with geometrical planes of different reflective angles and perforation. The image is totally broken, and you get lost ». The ephemeral dimension is part of Nouvel's language too, thus vegetation, « very fleeting, very senstive, very changeable » is not merely decoration or environment but an intrinsic element of his architectural language : « elements as fragile as a drop of water, a ray of light, vegetation moving in the wind. …
these things are important because they are so vibrant and by extension often moving in the confrontation between eternity and the moment » So he uses them fully to serve a particular situational poetics. Concerning towns and cities he states that there is no single urban question but a series of urban questions belonging to a large field of research which he regrets that architects have deserted. Now Jean Nouvel believes that these questions are « historically crucial ». The last century's failures must be assessed in order not to be repeated elswhere and not to reproduce the conditions that led to catastrophe. « Some paths are worth following especially those involving the least amount of materials » for instance. He is shocked by total demolition which he regards as meaningles. « If a town wants to live, it must know what it must change ». Therefore, the notions of analysis diagnosis and specificity, vital in urban projects, are dealt with first and then, depending on the case, demolition, substitution or completion will be taken into consideration. « We must really change the actual nature of these districts, the nature of housing, and that of complementary planing for public spaces » « it is a question of the dignity of the place we live in, of balance, of social mix ». So the problem is not only about demolishing tower blocks, it is not a formal but a fundamental question. The variety of Jean Nouvel's work is due to his approach to specificity and contextuality. » « Architecture has a place on an evolutionary line of creation and it must be aware of when and where it exists ». His creations are relevant because he takes into account « what went on before and what surrounds them ». His success in places as different as Sao Paulo, Tokyo, Lyon, Berlin, Changaï is the result of his reflection on context and history according to his basic creed : specifics are his primary concern.
The conquest of the Mont Boron Battery by Jean NOUVEL is for us, Nice's citizens, an extraordinary and fortunate event. His cultural project includes several missions such as fallows : to transform the site into a reception and study centre, to develop architectural culture in terms of meetings, exchanges and publishing, to train young professionals from all over the world, to develop and support architectural research : « the foundation intends to create an international hub aiming at promoting fundamental thought and research able to feed the architectural debate ». We are honoured by his choice and enthusiastic about his project.
Let's not forget that Jean Nouvel has accepted to preside over the « Nice : European Cultural Capital in 2013 » association and that he will hand over the file to the jury next December the 7th.