Generic or Specific Architecture

architects Jean Nouvel, Nicholas Michelin
interviewed by Gaétan Engasser, Nikola Radovanović, Sandi Pirš


Interviewed in Paris, January 25th 2005


After the exciting and innovative Institut du Monde Arabe Jean Nouvel entered the relatively small and exclusive group of the most respected and widely publicised architects in the world. With his spectacular constructions, such as the Lyon Opera, the concert hall in Lucerne, the Queen Sophia Museum in Madrid and his latest project of an office building in the centre of Vienna, Nouvel erases the borders between architecture and urban planning. The same goes for his project of Les Halles in Paris or the city of Doha in Qatar, that he conceived in cooperation with Nicolas Michelin.


If we ask the theoretical question whether this is generic or specific architecture, then Nouvel is definitely for specific architecture that will be unique and contextual in the widest sense.


ORIS: How did Jean Nouvel and Nicolas Michelin start working together?


Nouvel: We used to be neighbors, we lived and worked in the same building, a couple of hundred meters away, for years… Really, that is not a good reason at all! 


Actually, I followed the work of Nicolas Michelin. Especially on Arènes de Nîmes, where I am a regular. I often go there, I go out of season too, when it is covered. At the time I was familiar with LABFAC’s work; some projects left a strong impression on me, especially Le Métafort d’Aubervilliers. I feel an affinity with that work.


Also, Nicolas Michelin has a genuine urban culture. When I needed someone to work with me, since I was in a phase when I was doing too many things, I asked him in a quite natural way, because it seemed to me that he was the right man, the partner I had been dreaming of. He was not too far away, which also suited me.