In 1994, after ten years spent in Jouy-en-Josas near Versailles, the Fondation Cartier moved into the airy glass and steel building in central Paris designed especially by Jean Nouvel, who is also the creator of the Institut du Monde Arabe and the Musée du Quai Branly.
Famous in France and internationally for his unique way of dematerializing architecture, his challenge for Cartier was to harmoniously bring together 12,000 square feet of exhibition space and six storeys of offices on the boulevard Raspail.
Outside, he designed a glass curtain wall running parallel with the boulevard Raspail and screening off the Lebanese cedar tree planted by Chateaubriand in 1823. The tree was placed in a gigantic flowerpot clad with multi-coloured mosaics made by the talented and offbeat designer Alessandro Mendini.
Above the entrance is a `plant wall´ commissioned in 1998 from Patrick Blanc, a specialist in tropical botany who invented this unusual concept.
The main body of the building is set back from the boulevard and the façades on each side extend outward, seamlessly merging the garden with the building itself. Acting in turn as windows and mirrors, the glass walls offer glimpses of the works on show and reflect the clouds and the cityscape. A veritable `hall of mirrors´, the building constantly changes as the day or night progresses.
Inside, Jean Nouvel has invented a flexible modular space that encourages artists to make the architecture their own, modifying it and inhabiting it for the duration of their exhibitions. Each project provides an opportunity to reinvent the space.
The ground floor, with its 26-foot ceiling, opens onto the garden and can be darkened for film screenings and video installations. Its huge plate-glass windows can slide out of sight, transforming the building into a huge structure on stilts.
Métro: lines 4 et 6, stations Raspail ou Denfert-Rochereau
Bus: 38, 68
Parking: Disabled parking available at 2, rue Victor Schoelcher