Some have compared it to a pile of broken paving stones. Others, to a rusty spaceship crash-landed on the edge of the city. The architect of Paris’s new Philharmonie concert hall, Jean Nouvel, promised that it would be “one of the most remarkable symphonic buildings existing.” Remarkable indeed, for its escalating budgets, endless delays and bitter rows, which climaxed this week when Nouvel boycotted the inauguration of his own building, accusing his client of “contempt for architecture, for the profession and for the architect of the most important French cultural program of the new century.”
Running two years late and three times over its original budget, the €390m concert hall was still surrounded by an army of workmen fanatically fixing cladding panels to the facade when the conductor took to his dais on Wednesday evening. But Nouvel was conspicuously absent. “The architecture is martyred, the details sabotaged,” he wrote in a blistering editorial in Le Monde that day, describing the finished result as a kind of architecture “that oscillates between counterfeiting and tampering”.
Looming above the Parc de la Villette in the east of the city like one of George Lucas’s menacing starships, the building certainly seems to embody the anguish it has caused both architect, client and taxpayer. ….