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MEETING…JEAN PHILIPPE NUEL


OPPOSITE PAGE: Current projects on Agence Nuel’s drawing boards include the conversion of the Piscine Molitor Art Deco swimming pool in Paris to an M Gallery hotel complex (TOP) and a new Taj hotel in Pondicherry, India’s former French trading post (BOTTOM)


will perceive things. It is a sort of route, of


discovery and surprises, perhaps something happens in a corridor that is more sombre, when one enters the bedroom, it will follow the same guiding thread as the rest of the hotel but there must also be an element of surprise,” he says.


Nuel frequently makes use of photography and video. As with the Hôtel des Grands Balcons in Toulouse, where photographs of clouds are a dreamlike allusion to Toulouse’s links with the aviation industry and the pilot and writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry who often stayed at the hotel, in Nantes he worked with photographer Christian Zachariasen. “In five years since I won the competition, I had time to get to know the city well. There is a special iconography in the bedrooms, with photos taken of Nantes architecture or details of paintings that one finds in Nantes over the bed. A painting by Georges de la Tour in the Musée des Beaux-Arts sets the tone for a similar chiaroscuro light play in the photos, to make the ambience of Nantes emerge. In the restaurant a video about Jules Verne is projected on the wall, because he was born in Nantes, so it’s also about the idea of Nantes as a port, a departure point, like an incitation to travel and a way of locating it in the town.”


“What interests me is to express the place,


its relationship to the architecture of the building itself and of the town, to bring out the specificity of each town,” says Nuel, as in Marseille, where he has designed the InterContinental Marseille Hôtel Dieu, due to open in spring 2013 in the grandiose listed 18th century former Hôtel Dieu, an historic hospital originally founded in the 12th century, with a magnificent arcaded


façade overlooking the Vieux Port: “I am working with a very specific chromatic palette that I justify in its relationship to the town itself. The city of Marseille is very mineral, the light is very raw, the sky is very bright, the shadows are very strong and in addition the emblematic building, Notre Dame de la Garde, the church that dominates the whole city is black and white, so the town inspired the chromatic range of the project with stone colours and very deep greys. In the lobby, there are horizontal stripes like at Notre Dame de la Garde, there is a lot of stone on the walls and floor, a bit like in the Calanques. I also worked with a master glassmaker for sculpted glass windows, which have a scintillating effect that give the impression of a window opening onto the sea.” Not that his approach is overly reverent. At the Piscine Molitor in Paris, a legendary Art Deco swimming pool that, despite listed status, has been gradually disintegrating since it closed in 1989, which is to be reborn as a hotel, restaurant, pool and spa complex under the M Gallery brand, guests will dine under the original ceiling surrounded by vast blown-up photos taken by Nuel of the graffiti covering the abandoned swimming pool: “The idea is that the swimming pool’s entire history serves to build the new history created for this hotel.”


Outside France, current projects include the Baccarat Hotel in Dubai and the Taj Pondicherry, a rare project where he is both architect and interior designer for a resort hotel that will marry French and Indian touches. “In India, they sought me out because the hotel is in Pondicherry, a former French trading post, and they wanted to reflect this aspect while being very modern, which is exactly my approach. I did the


036 JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2013 WWW.SLEEPERMAGAZINE.COM


architectural project in its conceptual stage, it was then developed by the Indians and I return for the decoration. In addition, it’s very interesting because in India there are often no real limits between interior and exterior, except when a room is air conditioned, there are lots of intermediary spaces, that are perhaps covered but are both inside and outside, so it was quite logical for me to do both.”


Nuel feeds hotel projects with private architecture – a recent house near Paris, a converted shepherd’s croft in the Corbières, and design scenographies for the Maison & Objet and Equip’hotel trade fairs. “I like to touch on all the conceptual fields from architecture to design via interiors. It provides breathing space from time to time to do a project that is quicker and work directly with a client, it adds a little spice to the profession to touch on all these different fields.” He has just designed a small cruise liner for Les Croisières de Ponant, which attempts to get away from mass people-carriers and rediscover the spirit of a yacht, and continues to design furniture, notably in collaboration with Ligne Roset. This began with the Luca line of small armchairs, used for the Hôtel Duo in Paris and Jiva Hill near Geneva, developed when he was looking for a chair for restaurants, where one could sit lower and that could be easily moved – which, he adds proudly, was the first time a product from the contracts division went on to be manufactured for the public market – recently extended with the more curvaceous ‘Luca Soft’ created for the Radisson Blu Nantes, as well as the recent Aroun (Thai for ‘dawn’), a sculptural polyhedric lamp intended to be posed on the floor.


Nuel continues to combine prestige


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