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    “Architect martyred, details sabotaged”: Jean Nouvel boycotts opening of own concert hall

    Geraldine Chua

    The controversial €390 million Philharmonie de Paris was officially opened by French President Francois Hollande last night, but its internationally renowned architect was missing at the ceremony, and definitely not happy.

    According to reports, Jean Nouvel boycotted the opening on Wednesday evening in the French capital, insisting that the steel and aluminium structure was “not finished”.

    “There were no acoustic tests of the concert hall. The schedule did not allow the architectural and technical requirements to be respected. This despite all the warnings which I have been giving since 2013,” Nouvel said in a statement (in full below). 

    The French architect, who is behind award-winning Sydney high rise, One Central Park, has also published a scathing op-ed in French daily LeMonde, saying that “the Philharmonie has shot itself in both feet,” and adding:

    “The architect has been martyred, the details sabotaged.”

    This is not the first time Nouvel (left) has expressed frustration and disapproval at being sidelined by the symphony hall’s director – he told Vanity Fair France in 2013 that construction was going ahead without his approval.

    “There is a desire to rush things so as to meet a deadline that is simply not realistic, and is detrimental to quality,” he was quoted as saying.

    Nouvel won a competition to design the 2,400 seat venue at Paris’ Parc de La Vilette in 2007, with the tectonic-plated building then scheduled to be completed in 2012 at an estimated budget of €200 million. However, the project soon met with cost overruns and delays, issues which Nouvel has also clarified had “nothing to do” with him.

    Construction is expected to be fully completed in the fall of 2015.

    Images: Philharmonie de Paris

    Full statement from Jean Nouvel, courtesy of  Dezeen:

    "Numerous articles published recently in the press and reports broadcast on television establish a direct link between cost overruns in the budget of the Philharmonie de Paris and alleged modifications of the project that are attributed to me. These charges are unfounded and highly prejudicial to me and to Ateliers Jean Nouvel. I will not tolerate that untruthful, defamatory and disparaging writings or comments are made about me.

    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'.

    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. For example: 'expenses of the client', 'purchases of first equipment', expenses of 'site interface', 'fee expenses', 'insurance', 'taxes', 'repercussions of revisions of price', 'chaotic' tendering 'passed under doubtful legal conditions' which 'did not favour lowering of the costs'. At last, additional area was added to the program by the Philharmonie de Paris.

    Today, the Philharmonie de Paris opens. Too early. The building is not finished. There were no acoustic tests of the concert hall. The schedule did not allow the architectural and technical requirements to be respected. This despite all the warnings which I have been giving since 2013.

    In September 2013, in the French edition of Vanity Fair, Pierre Boulez declared: 'The concert hall will have to be broken in and tested by orchestras to regulate the acoustics. It is useless to open it too early. In spring 2015, at the end of the season, the biggest orchestras of the world would be invited for exceptional performances but at reduced prices. The true season would begin in September with the Orchestre de Paris'. Now, hours before its opening, let us declare with Pierre Boulez that the Philharmonie is 'en rodage'. This fall, when the construction is completed, it will be time to inaugurate it peacefully and with dignity."

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