Architectural character and iconographic interpretation are key themes in Nouvel's ten collector's issues
"Invention springs from character, from the importance of saying NO." With these words, Jean Nouvel begins his upcoming Domus adventure.
The French architect and philosopher will be the magazine's guest editor for the year 2022. He is the fifth protagonist in the ongoing editorial project Domus 10 x 10 x 10, whereby 10 architects of international renown edit 10 issues each, over a period of 10 years, leading up to the admirable milestone of the magazine's 100th anniversary.
So far, the baton has been passed from Michele De Lucchi (Italy, 2018) to Winy Maas (The Netherlands, 2019) to David Chipperfield (United Kingdom, 2020) to Tadao Ando (Japan, 2021). It now returns to Europe, with the arrival of the French-born Jean Nouvel. France is where he lives and where he built the foundations of his long-standing career, crowned in 2008 by the Pritzker Architecture Prize, an award also bestowed on his predecessor Tadao Ando in 1995.
"It is my certainty that, in turn, Jean Nouvel will bring us the amazement he has generated in his peerless career," writes Maria Giovanna Mazzocchi, the president of the Editoriale Domus publishing house and honoured in Italy as a Cavaliere del Lavoro. "As a theorist and valorous defender of architecture's political power, Nouvel has always felt free to express himself in art and design, and above all to work in multiple contexts and in all lands where his vision was requested or welcomed. His independent, contemporary and forward-looking approach demonstrates a vision of architecture as a strong form of thought where the architect is the co-creator of our societal and individual future. For these reasons and for all the reasons he will show us in Domus magazine in the coming year, I am very happy to welcome Jean Nouvel to our community and wish him the best of luck."
Nouvel has always promoted the notion that the architect must start with a diagnosis and absorb parameters extraneous to the discipline of architecture. He announces his intention of making Domus 2022 an ode to architecture that expresses a character.
"What would knowledge of the world be like if sensibility were disregarded? What would reason be without its poetic counterpoint? What would truth be if revealed from a single viewpoint? Ignorant knowledge. Unreasonable reason. Truncated truth. And in all cases, forgotten imagination. Defining a character is firstly a matter of awareness: awareness of the importance of asserting that you are somewhere. Invention springs from character, from the importance of saying NO. Defining a character means demonstrating your awareness of place, therefore reinforcing the character of a place, and therefore a sense of belonging. Urban plans are dehumanisation plans that stand in isolation from the character of places but should be bound to a specific architectural humanist vision based on a mindful awareness of conceiving made-to-measure solutions. One question should always be in our minds: spirit, are you there?” reads his manifesto of intent, a document that accompanies the December issue of Domus in anticipation of Nouvel's guest editorship.
Awareness and a sense of belonging are not the only elements that will make the upcoming ten issues of Domus magazine absolutely new, innovative and unique. Marking a clear difference with the preceding years, there will be a constant and ardent personal interpretation of images, something Nouvel feels strongly about, so much so, that this will be a major feature of "his" Domus.
"Every magazine needs to take a precise stand. That's important. At Domus I will focus on the character of buildings and their relationship with art. I will speak of the images, because I am convinced that architecture today finds in imagery a deep, positive kind of inspiration. What makes me sad are compilation magazines that line up one building after the other in increasingly small pictures. This neither transmits the meaning of the building nor the sense of architecture today. My Domus magazine will be different," says Nouvel in an exclusive interview with Walter Mariotti, the editorial director of Domus. This interview is published in the Jean Nouvel monograph, a supplement to the December issue of Domus.
In the exchange, the new guest editor fiercely states the humaneness and responsibility that architectural design must contain.
"Architecture means answering a question that is never posed. Above all, it's the answer to concrete societal and individual questions. It's the construction of new houses, offices and public space, because the ones we have now are no longer adequate for the new economic scenarios and population growth. Architecture is different from building, because it is not a short-term investment, but a commodity that will be used for decades or centuries. It creates spaces for living, human spaces. Style is not important to me, rather the questions that every era poses to architecture are fundamental. Cultural, economic and social variations that accompany humankind are fundamental, because architecture is a unique human act."
Each year, the work conducted by the new guest editor receives attentive support and coordination from the editorial director Walter Mariotti, who has been at the helm since 2017 and is in charge of the continuity of the Domus 10 x 10 x 10 initiative. "With Nouvel's work, we enter the sancta sanctorum of contemporary architecture, gaining access to his authentic emotions, deep intuitions, his aspiration for justice and uniqueness. We will see how he wields these to combat the massification of our existence and taste, how he uses them toward shaping a vision that uses architecture as a means to describe a society that he calls it into question in order to improve it. Without doing away with capitalism, Nouvel works to make living conditions more just, to keep sentiment and humanity at the centre."
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