Nouvel Wins Competition for Paris Symphony Hall

April 23, 2007

By Alex Ulam

Paris is one of the world’s cultural capitals, but a key offering is missing from its menu: a state-of-the-art symphony hall. That’s about to change. Earlier this month Jean Nouvel was selected as the winner of an international competition to design the Philharmonie de Paris, a music complex that will be the future home of the Orchestre de Paris.

Images courtesy: Ateliers Jean Nouvel


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Slated to open in 2012, the new complex will be located in the Parc de la Villette. In addition to providing a contemporary performance space, the Philharmonie de Paris will be the city’s first full-fledged professional music facility with offices, a library, and space for exhibitions. At its heart is Nouvel’s 2,400-seat concert hall, whose design is an exercise in disharmony. Its aluminum-clad exterior resembles a mass of crumpled metal slabs, while its interior contains bulging, sinuous shapes. The hall features a “vineyard-style” seating arrangement similar to that of Walt Disney Hall, in Los Angeles, where the audience is arrayed on raised terraces surrounding an orchestra platform.

Nouvel’s design was selected from a field of six finalists that included Francis Soler, Christian de Portzamparc, Zaha Hadid, Coop Himme(l)bau, and MRDV. The first phase of the competition drew 98 entries. Interestingly, architects who submitted designs were precluded from participating in the city’s other major architectural competition to design a two-acre superstructure that will be located at the entrance to the enormous underground Les Halles mall and transit center.

“Many of the international architects who wanted to be part of the Les Halles project, were chosen for the (Philharmonie de Paris) competition,” a spokesperson for Paris’s mayor explains. “Because the two of them are quite difficult projects, we had the idea that they wouldn’t have the time necessary to work on both of them at the same time.”



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