Time to Put an End to “Carbon Copy Cities”: Jean Nouvel’s Approach to Architecture

Celebrated French architect Jean Nouvel keeps arguing against generalist architecture.

In October 2009, Nouvel has presented one of his latest works, the Pavilion B at Genoa’s Nautical Tradeshow. With a remarkable lesson on aesthetics, Nouvel, who holds the Pritzker Architecture Prize 2008, has accounted for the essence of his accomplishment: his goal was to lay the edifice within the urban and social texture of the city of Genoa.

Indeed, from the vantage point of the water, the construction is I harmony with the sea and the moored boats. A similar impression can be felt by other of Nouvel’s productions like the Muse Quai Branly in Paris, the Akbar Tower in Barcelona and the project in Colle Val d’Elsa in Tuscany. Nouvel proclaims himself resistant to the “carbon copy cities” in an interview by Renata Fontanelli appeared in La Repubblica, Italy, on October 12th 2009, and of which here are some snippets roughly translated from Italian:

” Nowadays you cannot tell the difference from san Paolo in Brazil from Dubai or Shanghai from Milan because it is as if the project designers do not seem to take into account the uniqueness of each urban agglomeration . Architects do not seem to look at the light, the wind, the water, the history and the culture that make every city, be it small or large, unique. [...] Today,” concludes Nouvel, “modern architecture lies in the relation with its context.”

This vision is in accord to the modern traveler’s growing attention to boutique hotels. Indeed, in the past 20 years the market of boutique hotels has experienced a remarkable boom and this is arguably due to the fact that people are looking more and more for a hotel that can give them a pinch of the city’s essence, rather than choosing a “carbon copy hotel”, a “big box” like you could find in any other city.

Just like a “boutique” in French defines a small upscale shop to differentiate it from a big department store, similarly a boutique hotel distinguishes itself from a large Hotel Chain, which is identifiable with standardized features and looks. Boutique hotels tend to render the character of the location where it is set and remains a one-of-a-kind experience.

In a world that is becoming increasingly standardized, where commodities, stores, restaurants, indeed society in general is developing into a homogenized entity, boutique hotels are beacon for diversity and originality.

David Maranzana is President of Epoque Hotels and Avantgarde Hotels, a collection f boutique hotels in the major destinations worldwide.

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