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Architect Jean Nouvel creates a sanctuary for the senses as Nouvel Lumieres shows the living space in a different light.

French architect Jean Nouvel plays with light and materiality creating a breathtaking a masterpiece of luminosity

Decked out in his black winter garb, architect Jean Nouvel cut a striking silhouette against the stark white space as he presented his latest oeuvre Nouvel Lumières at this year's Milan design fair. Crafted in DuPont's award-winning Corian© - the material du jour of architecture and design – the multi-sensorial living space brings technology to the fore with sensational style. Following the theme of light, Nouvel manipulates the malleable material with masterful effect, creating a translucency that takes Corian beyond conventional boundaries "I have always seen Corian© as a material that symbolizes total abstraction – the materialization of an "absence" that is difficult to construct. How do you make an absence present? That is the difficult and eternal question for an architect who wants to keep the poetry of the design while making it a reality. This is the main reason why I was passionate about the proposition of designing a space in Corian© that talked about light" said Nouvel

Taking elements from existing innovations, such as the touch-sensitivity displayed in Ernestomeda's award-winning Z Island kitchen, designed by Zaha Hadid and Legrand and Bticino's touch control lighting "plaques", Nouvel combines all the elements creating a space that is not just an object exercise in future forward design, but a sensual approach to 21st century living. "For me, this project was interesting because there were no technical innovations involved, just a succession of inventions that we have already seen. We already know about Corian's© transclucence and its adaptability, so the point was to work with this vocabulary" he explained.

However, the real spectacle of the Corian© cuisine lies in the tall, backlit storage units which cleverly reveal their contents in shadowlike forms "It's a game based on the identification of the objects in the cupboard, contrasting with sharp rectangles of light that center the working plans and functional areas with precision and intensity", he added "The project highlights the kitchen's potential to break free from its functional status and become something else. By placing focus on everyday items, such as the contrasts between the work stations and the storage spaces (which play silent witnesses to the center stage), each detail becomes part of an overall design attitude" Nouvel announced.

The layering of light through surface relief is integral to the sublime sensorial feel of the space. In the main dining area, a floor-to-ceiling height cityscape engraved in Corian© dominates the main wall. The iconic urban landscape is revealed in sharp detail through dimmable lighting – think futuristic update of the prevalent New York neon scapes of the 1980s, only much slicker. Stepping into the library, the wall remains the focal point, and it is here that Nouvel disproves his critics as functionality plays the leading role. An innovative backlit wall-panelling system not only functions as a framework for slick shelving, it cunningly conceals a flexible internal framework to accommodate cabling and sound systems for a clean, wireless space.

The flowing framework continues throughout, even into the bathroom where the bright, stark space is centered around an innovational modular hanging system for customized storage solutions. However, the showpiece is the eerily egotistic vanity unit. The combination of angled mirrors, positioned to provide an almost 360° view, has a slightly uncomfortable voyeuristic feel "The idea behind the vanity is both poetic and narcissistic. As space expands and the image multiplies, the act of looking is heightened, and the viewer becomes his or her own audience."

The dreamlike quality of the bedroom has a cocoon-like ambiance. The continual change of the sleeping environment through the subtle diffusion of abstract images through light induces optimal relaxation and sublime slumber "With its continuous quality on the walls and floors, and its ability to encompass programmable light ambiances, Corian© will be the cause of a sensitive transformation of many apartments and offices, re-thinking and re-organizing their interiors" predicted Nouvel.

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