In photos from opening night last week, the exterior of the Philharmonie de Paris looked truly terrible, with construction debris littering the plazas and trusswork poking through unfinished outside walls. Reviewers spoke of traipsing through an unfinished lobby across chipboard temporary floors. The orchestra prepared to play in an auditorium they had barely set foot in, designed with a radically new acoustical concept.
Jean Nouvel, France’s most celebrated architect, was justifiably furious at the rush to open before the building was complete, considering the potential damage to his reputation and to that of a brand new institution that already has an uphill battle to attract audiences. Just hours before the hall’s inaugural concert, he wrote an op-ed for Le Monde, and issued a statement declaring he would not attend the opening, saying that management had “shot itself in the foot,” by unveiling the hall before it was ready.
Unfortunately, the timing and his vituperative tone could not have been more poorly chosen. By horrifying luck, thugs who hoped to terrify Parisians made the Jan. 15 opening a necessity, allowing art to be a force for unity as a potent response to calculated killing. ….