The Aesthete: Jean Nouvel talks more personal taste

The Pritzker Prize-winning architect concludes his list of likes with Marlon Brando, French chansonniers and ganache chocolates

Jean Nouvel in Saint-Paul-de-Vence
Jean Nouvel in Saint-Paul-de-Vence | Image: Emmanuel Fradin

My style icons are many, but Gary Cooper, Orson Welles and Marlon Brando are at the top of my list for old-world Hollywood glamour-with-attitude. Filmmaker Wim Wenders I admire for his adventurous spirit, and Azzedine Alaïa is a true style icon: his dress is so simple, so perfect – much like his taste for everything.

Georges Brassens
Georges Brassens | Image: Paris Match via Getty Images

The last book I read was Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet. I can open this book and turn to any page and I am completely enraptured. It is like looking into this man’s brain and it is quite abstract. 

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The site that inspires me is Saint-Paul-de-Vence in the south of France. I love the quality of life there and the seamlessness of living indoors and out. This area is a crossroads for art and ideas: Léger, Picasso and Cézanne all spent time here. I’m constantly inspired by the light: the play of the sun through the pine trees, the shadows across a pool. The Fondation Maeght with its collection of 20th-century and contemporary art, and meals at the art-filled La Colombe d’Or, are particularly inspiring. Saint-Paul-de-Vence has a soul, a true sense of place. Fondation Maeght, 623 Chemin des Gardettes, 06570 (+334-9332 8163; fondation-maeght.com). La Colombe d’Or, Place du Général de Gaulle, 06570 (+334-9332 8002; la-colombe-dor.com). 

Saint-Paul-de-Vence
Saint-Paul-de-Vence | Image: Alamy

The last music I downloaded was by French chansonnier Georges Brassens, whose songs I love, as well as those by Claude Nougaro, Léo Ferré and Jacques Brel. I always listen to music while I’m on my bike in the mornings – it might also be an opera, such as Carmen, poetry or 11th-century ecclesiastical music.

Alain Ducasse Chocolates
Alain Ducasse Chocolates

The best souvenirs I’ve brought home are ganache chocolates by Alain Ducasse, which I bought on my return from a recent trip. They are made of single-origin cocoa and are incredibly dark and rich. Like smoking or drinking, tasting this kind of chocolate for the first time can be repulsive, but then it becomes like a delicious, addictive drug. Discovery box, from €19; lechocolat-alainducasse.com

The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa
The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa

The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is … an impossible choice for me. I am a contextual person so I love art in its place, and wouldn’t want to collect any one person’s work. 

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The last meal that truly impressed me was at Le Duc in Paris. This is simply the best place for fish anywhere. The seabass and salmon tartare, served with a traditional French feel rather than Japanese, are particularly outstanding. Even the setting, with its fabulous wall sconces and nautical design, makes a meal here feel very special. 243 Boulevard Raspail, 75014 Paris (+331-4320 9630; restaurantleduc.com). 

An indulgence I would never forgo is a good lie-in. I am most creative in bed, so after breakfast I will often return there, put on my eye mask and earplugs, and tuck in for several more hours. This is a time of meditation and ideas, and like a fisherman, I wait.

The people I rely on for personal wellbeing are my ex-wife, who is a naturopath and keeps me healthy with phytotherapy; and my masseuse Sonia Corcos, who is based in Nice. I try to take care of my body and health, so I swim or do some form of exercise every day. Sonia Corcos, 11 Avenue de Flirey, Batiment A3, 06000 Nice (+3308-9297 6297).

My favourite websites are Lequipe.com for sport, and Lemonde.fr and Liberation.fr for news and world events. I travel all the time and these perspectives are consistent. 

If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be a filmmaker. I love the cinema and often refer to aspects of film – lighting, images, set design – in my architecture. One of my upcoming projects, the National Museum of Qatar, will feature an immersive film programme.

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