Saturday, October 1, 2011

Jean Nouvel:

A Metamorphosis of the Modern into the Metamodern

Jean Nouvel, Torres Algues, Barcelona, Spain (2003) *

Born August 12, 1945, the architect is this writer's contemporary, which would place him in the Postmodern according to the time he began producing. Looking at his oeuvre, however, his work is Modern and/or Metamodern in character, and I’m sure there are those who would place him among Modern architects, though I question that judgment. Let me explain.

The Torre Algues de Barcelona (Agbar), Barcelona, the ultimate expression of male vanity is also Jean Nouvel’s only adventure in true blobitecture. *2 He has designed other curved structures like the Louvre Abu Dhabi (a flattened flying saucer-like dome with a transparent tree branch latticed structure), and his barrel vaulted (Paulo Soleri Arcosanti-like) Winery at Chateau la Costa in Provence. However, these structures use modern forms that unintentionally echo ancient Roman architectural devices. Additionally, Nouvel’s design for the master plan and megalithic main building for the Port of Vigo in Spain (2007) has nothing to do with curves, but instead looks like a giant rock complete with plant growth that suggests time etched sedimentation. After searching for current status of the project on line, it appears to me that the economic crash of 2008, spearheaded by our own illustrious Wall Street has prevented the consummation of the project.

Jean Nouvel, Port of Vigo Spain, Office Tower (2007 design winner)

Of all the structures I’ve listed above, the first and the last are most indicative of a Metamodern disposition, though the others relate more closely to a 3rd quarter 20th Century Modernism. It would seem that Mr. Nouvel himself oscillates between a Modern and a Metamodern position, though the Port of Vigo project and others indicate that he is ever more invested in a fantastical surreal and organic nature that is typical of the Metamodern. For anyone interested in the ways Modernism metamorphoses into the Metamodern, a closer look at Jean Nouvel’s work is clearly warranted.


Goodman, Lanie, “Starchitects on Parade,” The New York Times Style Magazine September, 25, 2011, p 102-105.

Admin, “Jean Nouvel’s Granit Monolith Covered with Vegetation Overlooks the Port of Vigo,” eVolo, July 31, 2011, viewed 4:41 PM EDT, Friday, September 30, 2011.

Ateliers Jean Nouvel, Corporate Website at Viewed 4:30 PM EDT, Friday, September 30, 2011.

* Nouvel, Jean, Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, “Jean Nouvel,” image, "The Torres Algues," Last modified 7:52, September 30, 2011, viewed 10:00 AM EDT, Saturday, October 1, 2011. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled GNU Free Documentation License.

*2 That the Torre Algues is blobitecture might be desputed because it is not entirely curved. However, Frank Gehry's buildings (for one) are often sighted as blobitecture despite the presence of straight lines and trapazoidal form mixed with curves.

*3 Admin, “Jean Nouvel’s Granit Monolith Covered with Vegetation Overlooks the Port of Vigo,” eVolo, July 31, 2011, viewed 4:41 PM EDT, Friday, September 30, 2011. It is known that one time use of an image for intellectual purpose is legal under United States copyright law.

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