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Nouvel, Rist, Westermann: the architect, the artist and the chef. Appointment at the top floor of a recently finished oblique tower in Vienna. With the Danube Canal flowing just below, the great building, more than being functional, is rather an experimental laboratory for applied arts...
<b>SINESTESIE D'AUJOURD'HUI</b>Published on Tuesday, February 15th, 2011
Shining brightly with its own light, the colourful 1,000 square meter "fresco" on the ceiling of the Austrian restaurant Le Loft is located on the top floor of the latest architectural artwork inaugurated in Vienna, a few hundred meters away from the Gothic cathedral of St. Stephen's. The  Cuisine is, of course, French. Since the space is limited by extremely transparent, invisible or nearly so, glass walls, the result is that the creative visionary imprint of Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist is recognizable even from down on the street and further away. In truth, to put even the more distracted passers-by onto the trail of Pipilotti, are primarily its huge images that stand out clearly in a couple of ceilings on the ground floor. There is a transparent style created by architect Jean Nouvel for the loft, which is really extraordinary, especially if the observation point is positioned inside 70 meters of altitude. Take for granted the expected vertigo of being on the top of the Nouvel-Tower, which for most is slightly tilted to the west. Freedom within and above us  is the title-theme on which Pipilotti Rist has worked for the Nouvel tower: three paintings for a total space of 1,800 square meters. 
Jean Nouvel - Nouvel-Tower/Vienna (Sofitel Stephansdom)In addition to the one on the top floor, there is one located on the ground floor, representing the roof and ceiling access of the hotel lobby hosting its headquarters there. Another decorates the ceiling of a strange environment, an under glass volume called Wintergarten, a greenhouse, according to the name, wedged conspicuously like a pneumatic almost at mid-height of the building: a void that seems to suspend the force of gravity. There is nothing strange then if Pipilottiís images constitute an allegory of the lightness of being. Reversal of perspective, ironic juxtapositions, disproportionate scale ratios, hyper chromatic elements. It is his version of a natural world - a forest, a sea ... with its elements - which, instead of being crushed under the feet, are poetically hung in the air above us like a dream. Photographic images are obtained through higher magnifications shown on special canvas panels and backlit with the addition of circular form LED video displays. For size and optical performance, installations have involved the use of complex technology solutions, led by dozens of specialists. The link between the arts is the essential prerogative of the Nouvel-Tower, starting from its own physicality and plasticity between architecture and sculpture. Inside it includes a shopping centre dedicated to design only and, as mentioned, a hotel, a Luxury Sofitel, with a reference to art and the guaranteed nomination Stephansdom. The decorative staging of its 182 rooms and suites, for example, has been developed by Alain Bony and Henri Laboile, two French artists in collaboration with students at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. Their input is barely noticeable everywhere: there are minute drawings on the walls depicting isolated tracks, suited to the refined minimalist connotation of housing units developed on individual rigid monochrome: white, grey, black. The same colourless tones in areas that are more accessible to the public are accompanied by transparent elements and mirrored surfaces.
Patrick Blanc - Nouvel-Tower/Vienna - Giardino verticale (particolare dal centro commerciale)
With the exception of Pipilotti Ristís large installations, the architectural ensemble in itself has a rigorous, colourless, almost expressionless and even fleeting footprint which Nouvel persistently associated to the idea of a "presque rien", almost nothing. However, the distribution of interior spaces, horizontally and vertically, is de-structured in a complicated propagation of levels, overhangs, large voids, off-axis perspective, reflections. Presque rien, a term far from being random, through which one enters immediately in the order of certain reflections brought forward by Jankélévitch Vladimir, French philosopher inspired by Bergson.  Reflections on the enigmatic, ineffability of things never known in their fullness and complexity, only accessible to intuition. As if to say,  presque rien. Nouvel's design is in its own way, allusive.
Jean Nouvel - Nouvel-Tower/Vienna (Sofitel Stephansdom) - Suite - photo Uniqa/Artinger
The backdrop to the north side of the building, is also a "vertical garden", rising five stories high from the ground floor. It was made with 20 thousand plants by botanist Patrick Blanc, the creator of this genre itself. When you think of it, it is obvious. As a pair, Blanc and Nouvel come out of an historic collaboration dealing with the original vegetation of the Musée du quai Branly in Paris.

franco veremondi

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