Am I Inside Already?

Am I Inside Already?

"Fondation Cartier“ Museum for contemporary Art

The Museum for Contemporary Art provides insights and really is a mirror of our time.


In Jean Nouvel’s museum and multi-functional building in the Paris quarter of Montparnasse, nature and architecture are not connected with each other, both literally merge into each other and sometimes make the visitor wonder: “Am I inside already – or have I left?” Apart from the 1,200 m² small (but nice) exhibition area for the contemporary museum of the Cartier foundation. The rectangular building’s core with a room height of eight meters, houses the avant-garde building featuring the administration, an underground car park, conference rooms, and offices of the Cartier main administration. Each of the seven floors are part above ground and part underground. The chief attraction at the headquarters of the world-famous jewelry empire – and an architectural novelty developed by Jean Nouvel for its completion in the year 1994 – is the curtain façade of steel and glass. It is pulled at the front and back over the actual built structure, encases a very old cedar of the garden – once planted by Chateaubriand, who used to live here – and other trees and dissolves the separation between the inside and the outside. This merging of nature and architecture is even emphasized by a wall of tropical plants, a vertical garden by Patrick Blanc. As the inventor of this unusual concept, this French botanist and garden artist was also in charge of the installation at the Fondation Cartier in 1998.

Protection and Mirror both at the Same Time

The façade protects the inside from the unavoidable noise from the busy Boulevard Raspail and at the same time allows for interesting lighting effects, depending on the time of day. During the day, permeable glass elements allow for insight into what’s going on inside – exhibitions, installations, contemporary art in the fields of painting, photography, fashion and design. At night, the elements work like mirrors and show the lights of Paris like on a giant movie screen. What a neat idea for a contemporary museum, which always shows and reflects what’s going on today!

Plain Form in an exciting Interpretation

The basic shapes, square and rectangle in glass and steel are what Jean Nouvel continues to use for the Fondation Cartier without becoming boring. Each square element is divided into three rectangles, reflecting the shape of the building core. The anthracite-colored sun blinds also have a square shape and are the visual scaffold along with the steel construction – full of lightness and elegance. This is Jean Nouvel the way he is, famous for his ability to dematerialize even heavy and massive structures. About the heavily discussed building gap he has closed with the Fondation Cartier in a brilliant way, he says: “I keep searching for the missing piece. I seek architecture dealing with its location and finding a new relation. For the Fondation Cartier, to me this is transparency, ambiguity, reality, virtuality, depth and reflection.” Combined with the classic as well as the vertical garden above the entrance, Fondation Cartier detects exciting solutions of urban challenges between art, commerce, and culture.

Project details


Ateliers Jean Nouvel, Paris, France


Completion 1994


GFA 11,300 m²


Cartier S.A., Paris, France


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admin's picture
admin 9. August 2011 - 22:17

I was lucky enough to work on this one.

admin's picture
admin 9. August 2011 - 22:47


admin's picture
admin 9. August 2011 - 22:53

This is definitely the most interesting project Novel ever made. We can see the wonderful relation between interior and exterior in the 1995 film by Wim Wenders, Beyond the Clouds.

admin's picture
admin 10. August 2011 - 8:38