Long Overdue

Jean Nouvel sues Philharmonie de Paris over $189.5 million fine

The concert hall’s sloping reflective surface was designed to act like a mountain that visitors could climb to overlook Paris and its surrounding suburbs. (Guilhem Vellut/ Flickr)

The Philharmonie de Paris was infamously over budget and two years behind schedule when it opened in January 2015. Two years later, the Philharmonie issued a $189.5 million fine against Jean Nouvel, the building’s Pritzker Prize-winning architect, for his failure to deliver the project on-time and on-budget. Earlier this week, Nouvel filed a lawsuit against his former client claiming that the fines were “unprecedented in the world of architecture” and “totally disproportionate,” according to the Guardian

The project was initially budgeted for $217 million in 2006 but ballooned to $419 million by the time it was complete. The publicly-financed concert hall, which was built in the lower-income and largely-immigrant 19th arrondissement, has meanwhile become synonymous with extravagance and oversight in public works. 

Nouvel was outspoken about his opposition to the concert hall during its construction, going as far as suing to have his name taken off the project and boycotting the opening. His unsuccessful 2015 lawsuit claimed that building had radically shifted from the original design and that his firm was not responsible for the project nearly doubling in price. 

Image of Jean Nouvel's profile looking at thought bubble of his design

(Montage by AN)

Nouvel’s lawyers, William Bourdon and Vincent Brengarth, told the Guardian that the Paris Philharmonie was unreasonably holding Nouvel’s firm, Atelier Jean Nouvel, solely responsible for the delays and budget issues. Nouvel has continuously maintained that the project overran its budget for reasons outside his firm’s control. 

“I affirm that in no case was I at the origin of any cost overrun on this project. The public report of Cour des Comptes of February 2012 evokes ‘poor piloting,’ ‘many delays related to the fluctuations of the public arbitrations’ which ‘obviously influenced the cost of the operation,’” he wrote in a statement boycotting the opening of the Paris Philharmonie. “The public report of the French Senate of October 17th, 2012 evokes ‘initial underestimated costs’ before the launching of the competition and specifies the main reasons of overruns, which have nothing to do with me.” 

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