The Construction of Form, a Grand Style

François Chaslin 

Is Dominique Perrault France’s best architect? It would be tempting to say so if the Pritzker had not first gone to Portzamparc and Nouvel, both of whom are about ten years older. French? Without a doubt. In certain ways, so are the latter two. All three present themselves as such to foreign eyes. Portzamparc for his delicacy, culture, and attention to detail. Nouvel, on the contrary, for a certain kind of affected radicality in posture. And Dominique Perrault would be a French architect because of his rigor (Cartesian rigor, perhaps), his penchant for construction and materials, and above all his serene grand style which works well both for State solemnity and the private sector. A style that is in continuity with classicism as heir of the École des Beaux-Arts, in a way that follows exactly how this developed during the years of postwar economic growth, in the carefree atmosphere of the fifties and sixties when France was reigned by the Art Nouveau Rome Prizes varnished with International Style. 

Is Dominique Perrault France’s best architect? To be sure, he is France’s most absent architect, not having built in his own country since he finished the small media library of Venissieux in 2001, eight years ago. He has certainly not been inactive. But even before the completion of the National Library of France (1989-1995), part of his time was concentrated on the works for the Berlin Olympics (1992-1999). Gradually, commissions began to come from all over the world. In a way, Perrault has not returned to France since. It took some time to see the completion of the Town Hall of Innsbruck (1996-2002) and the three supermarkets of Voralberg (1999-2003). In time, things went faster. Perrault has consecutively finished the Ewha campus in Seoul (2004-2008), the tower-hotel of Poblenou in Barcelona (1998-2008), the Court of Justice of the European Communities in Luxembourg (1996-2008), and the Olympic Tennis Center in Madrid (2002-2009).

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