The Sunday Preview: Registering the shock of the Nouvel

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The Independent Culture
'THE future of architecture is not architectural,' claims Jean Nouvel. This eclectic French architect uses hi-tech with all the obscurity of a semiotician. His famous L'Institut du Monde Arabe (above) is a sequence of surprises - the basement with its hidden colonnade, a south-facing screen of 240 jewel-like light-sensitive panels, interior spaces that range from sci-fi claustrophobic to a sequence of exhilarating views over Paris. From social housing to hotel building, Nouvel conjures up odd resonances and arrives at startling solutions. To British eyes his most inexplicable current project is the Tour Sans Fin designed to complement the Great Arch at La Defense. When built, it will be the slenderest tall tower in the world - black granite at the base dematerialising into diaphanous glass at the top. Beam me up, Scottie. ICA, The Mall (071-930 6393), Wed to 14 Feb. Catalogue, Artemis pounds 24.95.

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