French Architect Jean Nouvel Wins Lawsuit Against Controversial Philharmonie de Paris

Architecture International
(Courtesy Philharmonie de Paris)

(Courtesy Philharmonie de Paris)

The Paris Supreme Court has ruled in favor of French architect Jean Nouvel, who filed a lawsuit against the Philharmonie de Paris in December last year alleging “non-compliance” with his designs. Pending his April 16 hearing, Nouvel requested a court order to be legally disassociated from the project.

Jean Nouvel in 2009, Vienna (Courtesy Jean Nouvel)

Jean Nouvel in 2009, Vienna (Courtesy Jean Nouvel)

The Parisian architect called for emergency litigation to halt construction of the concert hall on account of recurring delays and skyrocketing costs, which had hiked prices from the original $217 million to an estimated $419 million. Claiming that he and his firm, Ateliers Jean Nouvel, were not responsible, the architect demanded a court mandate that “modifying work” be undertaken on the 26 parts of the building that had deviated from his original design.

This includes parapets, foyers, facades, the promenade, and acoustic elements within the 2,400-seat auditorium in Parc de la Villette, Paris. Nouvel and his architectural practice pointedly boycotted the controversial January 14 opening of the concert hall on the grounds that the project was incomplete.

(Courtesy Philharmonie de Paris)

(Courtesy Philharmonie de Paris)

(Courtesy C. Montagu-Pollock)

(Courtesy C. Montagu-Pollock)

“The building is not finished,” Nouvel said in a statement to Dezeen. “There were no acoustic tests of the concert hall. The schedule did not allow the architectural and technical requirements to be respected—this despite all the warnings which I have been giving since 2013.” In an editorial for French newspaper Le Monde, Nouvel revealed that he had been “contractually sidelined, with the threat of being chucked off the job.”

Nouvel had petitioned to have his name and image removed from all references to the building prior to the hearing. The Pritzker Prize–awarded architect won an international competition to design the Philharmonie in 2007, with a proposal that featured a sloping 171-foot-high metal roof which visitors could walk on and jagged, almost crooked-looking facades clad in cast aluminum, which Nouvel selected for its “pearly nuances and delicateness.”

Although the court ruled Wednesday against the opposing party, legal proceedings are far from over. “Today, the court requires additional detailed and comparative information to make a judgment,” a press release from Ateliers Jean Nouvel noted. “The court’s ruling is only a first step for Jean Nouvel, who continues to fight to ensure that the Philharmonie lives up to its mission and ambition.”

(Courtesy W. Beaucardet)

(Courtesy W. Beaucardet)

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