around the city. The 'dirty real' landscape is populated by futuristic gas stations, rough garages, industrial plants and warehouses. The Némausus units respond in kind. With their rough concrete interiors, accordion doors, red and white bands and exclusive use of perforated and galvanized industrial aluminium staircases, the buildings are metaphorical garages or industrial warehouses. The painter François Seigneur was commissioned to work on the concrete walls of four apartments, but otherwise the inhabitants were forbidden to change their intentionally 'unfinishetf appearance.

One of the key metaphors that shaped Le Corbusier's Unité d'Habitation in Marseille*» the building as sea-going vessel. The same ¡s true of the two Némausus units: equipped as they are with a poop, decks and prow, r« | buildings are also obviously intended as refr resentations of ships. However, whereas It Corbusier's prototype was the ocean Irnei. Nouvel's model seems to be a lightweig* I economically conceived, jet hovercraft Tte

rony of the Nouvel metaphor is apparent in the sunken parking lot below the apartments: only the curves of the car roofs are visible from the outside. The intention is to make the building look like a vessel sailing across metallic waves -a metaphor one would expect from someone such as Nouvel. a long-time collaborator of the neo-futurist theoretician Paul Virilio. for whom the representation of movement is the essence of modernity.

The buildings are more than a graceful 'ormal statement. According to a recent study.

they are popular among their inhabitants. They are machines for living in. to use Corbusier's famous expression (but less metaphorically and more pragmatically meant than by Le Corbusier).. They achieve extremely high standards of livability in a public-sector housing development by overcoming infelicitous conditions and refusing to accept conventional constraints. In this respect, Jean Nouvel is what has been described, in the words of the French critic Jacques Lucan. as a 'critical' architect.

Rem Koolhaas (OMA)

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