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. 


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; La Colombe d’Or, Place du Général de Gaulle, 06570 (+334-9332 8002; 

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;

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. 


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; 

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 for sport, and and 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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