Nouvel Against Nouvel

The Paris Concert Hall Case


After seven years of construction works and delays, and with the French state having spent 386 million euros instead of the originally budgeted 200, the Philarmonie de Paris was as awaited as it was scrutinized. Unsurprisingly, therefore, the inauguration in mid-January was a bittersweet affair. It certainly did not help that the concert hall opened to Parisian audiences just when the atmosphere was thick with the consternation that followed in the immediate wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. Nor did the conspicuous absence of the building’s author, Jean Nouvel, who took the opportunity to launch a broadside against the Administration on the same day that François Hollande was cutting the ribbon. In a mediatic offensive through the newspaper Le Monde and his own Twitter account, Nouvel complained about the early opening of the auditorium, invoking here the authority of the project’s great inspirer, Pierre Boulez, who had pronounced it necessary to “run the room” first.

The fact is that the new concert hall, successfully tested by the Orchestre de Paris, seems to be one of the best there is acoustically, so it may be logical for us to imagine that Nouvel’s diatribe is more attributable to all the pressure he claims to have suffered in the course of the execution of the work; pressures that ultimately translated into his progressive exclusion from decision-making in the project and materialized in acts of “sabotage” in the details of a building which, in spite of everything, Nouvel considers “France’s most important cultural project of the start of the century.”

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