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Pritzker architecture prize goes to Jean Nouvel of France

This year's winner is known for light, transparency, and 'poetic' use of technology.

By Bonnie ChurchillCorrespondent of The Christian Science Monitor / March 31, 2008

Jean Nouvel, 2008 winner of the Pritzker Prize

Courtesy of Gaston Bergeret/Jouen Nouvel Ateliers

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The 2008 Pritzker Architecture Prize, the most prestigious award given in architecture, goes to Jean Nouvel of France. This is only the second time an architect from France (Christian de Portzamparc in 1994 was the first) has received the honor in the prize's 30-year history.

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Mr. Nouvel is saluted for a lifetime of achievement. In a phone interview, he says, "I have designed everything except an airport and a cathedral. I challenge myself to give each project a distinctive look."

His delight at receiving the high honor is palpable: "I am not noted for pursuing a particular style of architecture," he says. He likes to use innovative materials and approaches. "My work deals with what is happening now. I like to use the techniques and materials we are capable of today." He has designed museums, office buildings, cultural centers, housing – and more – in Italy, Japan, Spain, England, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, South Korea, Mexico, Brazil, Iceland, Russia, Taiwan, Morocco, the United States, and elsewhere.

His pursuit of new ideas has led to creative experimentation; his buildings defy "modernist" or even "postmodernist" labels. Each project, to him, is a problem to be solved in a unique way: "I have always developed a different procedure for each commission," he says. "Much research is required." One critic observes that Nouvel's buildings are characterized by "their shimmering transparency, their enigmatic use of light and color, and their poetic use of modern technology."

Nouvel is particularly well known for his design of the Institut du Monde Arabe (IMA) in Paris, the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, the 75-story tower alongside the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and a forthcoming condominium complex in Century City, Los Angeles.