Thursday, February 14, 2008

Jean Nouvel: Veg.itect

From Curbed LA a series of articles on Jean Nouvel's current work in Los Angeles, and beyond. This project is slated as luxury condos in Century City, which judging from the existing skyline is not a hotbed of zoomy vegetated architecture. I appreciate Nouvel's use of vegetation on this project as a mediator between indoors and out, to frame and provide context for the distant view. The way this subtly articulates the facade is a nice touch as well.

:: image via LA Times

:: images of interiors via Curbed LA

This piece, along with the much discussed and photographed Musee du Quai Branly in Paris, made me start to look at more of the body of work by Nouvel, and his use of landscaping in building form and function. MQB is obviously striking, and Patrick Blanc's vegetated walls are pretty stunning. My first thought is that it must be a true Veg.itect to allow plantings to cover the facade, as well to see some of the less photographed facades of this building.

:: image via Human Flower Project

These two buildings inevitably led me to want to see how this is realized in other projects Nouvel has been involved in. This building, the Chelsea Residences, is located in New York, and featured some vegetated terraces. The main building feature is a variety uniquely shaped window panels that gives the facade it's irregular surface.

:: image via OutNext

:: image via Dezeen

Further exploration led to some other work led to a few other examples. The 'Puerto de Vigo Tower', in Spain was a competition winning entry for a tower and adjacent open space. From Urbanity: "...Apart of the monolithic tower, Nouvel’s proposal, presented with the motto: “Peirao XXI”, proposes the “Jardín de las mareas” (tides garden), an avenue that will reach the hotel’s base. It will be an ensemble of different heights terraces, which will be flooded in part by the high tide."

:: image via Urbanity

An earlier competition winner for a Cultural Center in Kuwait City, hints at the vegetated wall forms from subsequent projects (although it may be overshadowed a bit by the architectural form).

:: image via Bartproject

So it's a given that Nouvel does fit the Veg.itect category, although perhaps not to the extreme as Ken Yeang (featured on L+U earlier). The aim is significantly more aesthetic, and perhaps a bit more restrained. One aspect that is interesting, is seeing the project built out. I stumbled upon some early pics of the Musee du Quai Branly when it was most likely pretty new, and it spare in it's youthful potential (but still pretty cool), compared to current photos:
:: former - image via French Gardening

:: current - image via
I wonder, will architects be happy with a skin/roof material that perhaps looks thin, overly full, patchy, brown, or otherwise less than pristine at times? This being a far cry from the inert stability of most building materials they use. Time will tell, but it looks like Nouvel is keeping things literally, green.

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