Nouvel's little joke

For a symbol, Nouvel's tower takes itself surprisingly unseriously. Agbar is the local water company, and Ateliers Jean Nouvel, with b720 arquitectos, has built for it a giant bubbler. The inky surface appears to ripple under a liquid film, sparkling through a jigsaw-puzzle of color.

Whether or not you are in on this little joke, Nouvel has created the most sensuous surface for a tower perhaps ever. It's the culmination of his long exploration of the tactile and visual qualities of surface. (Ghostly images of performers scud across the painted metal panels of Nouvel's Guthrie Theater, for example, which nears completion in Minneapolis.) The local project architect, Jean-Pierre Bouanha, explained on a visit how the surface of the tower was scribed into a 1-square-meter-grid (11 square feet), onto which was applied ridged, painted-metal panels over insulation. Below the uppermost floors (which are clad entirely in clear glass),

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2. Moat

3. Lobby

4. Office

5. Mechanical

6. Meeting

7. Freight elevator

8. Passenger elevator

9. Reception

9 m

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