Jean Nouvel shunning opening of Philharmonie concert hall in Paris

Workers at the new Philharmonie de Paris ahead of its opening in Paris on Jan. 13.
(Jacques Demarthon / AFP/Getty Images)

Architect Jean Nouvel said that he won’t attend the opening of his new Philharmonie de Paris concert hall in an editorial that he wrote for the French daily Le Monde.

In the article, which was published Wednesday, he contends that the hall is opening too early without the necessary tests needed to ensure its viability as a music venue.

The much-delayed Philharmonie de Paris was scheduled to officially open on Wednesday at its location on the edge of the city’s 19th arrondissement. The project has been plagued by work stoppages and overerruns, and is estimated to have cost French taxpayers $455 million.

Nouvel wrote in Le Monde that he believes the Philharmonie leadership is opening the hall prematurely, and that the organization “has shot itself in each foot.”


The architect said that he has been essentially pushed aside and that decisions about the hall are being made in secret without the necessary oversight. He added that Philharmonie leaders have made cuts and sacrificed details, which he believes have compromised the building.

“The contempt these last two years for architecture, for the architect’s craft... prevents me from expressing my agreement and satisfaction with attending the opening ceremony,” Nouvel wrote.

The Philharmonie de Paris has been seen as a major architectural achievement, and some observers hope it will take its place alongside such other modern French buildings as the Centre Pompidou. The hall’s resident ensemble will be the Orchestre de Paris, which in the past has performed at the Salle Pleyel.

In addition, the hall features space for visual art projects. The inaugural exhibition is a show dedicated to glam-rock star David Bowie that was previously seen at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

The hall’s location on the outskirts of Paris is symbolic, with the intention of bringing together the city’s wealthy, cultured demographic with its largely minority population who live in the city’s poorer suburbs.

In Le Monde, Nouvel evoked the recent Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks, writing that “in this period of mourning, I find our Philharmonie to be very ‘Charlie’ in its location, intergenerational generosity and its openness to social and cultural diversity.”

Nouvel described the building as premature, but “with time, and a lot of care, as with premature babies, its scars will disappear.”

Twitter: @DavidNgLAT