Jean Nouvel: “Dwelling well is fundamental”

In his concluding editorial in Domus 1073, guest editor 2022 discusses the issue of urban globalization and the right to live well challenged by a world that is “cloning itself”.

If I say “globalisation”, what ideas come into your mind? What experiences does it evoke? What images clamour for expression? To round off my year as guest editor of Domus, Walter Mariotti and I thought it would be constructive to raise the questions of tomorrow, to talk about the origins of ideas, and flush out ideas and situations that have not been sufficiently questioned or exposed.

The global situation doesn’t exactly help us act or react. Wars, health hazards and economic and political threats top the agenda, leaving little room for social and humanist concerns regarding the development of living beings – humans, animals and plants – that are essential to the ecological balance of the planet. But that balance is vital in the short term and it is crucial that we maintain it. Social unrest is triggered by existing and anticipated dissatisfaction.

Yet the ecological dangers we face should prompt us to take non-stop action and dismiss all that is irrational.

Dwelling well is fundamental for the life of all. It is the basis of everything, for without a favourable territory to inhabit, no one and nothing can flourish. Urban globalisation is the result of selfishness, a lack of awareness of the immediate future and a general absence of empathy. The call for contributions to this issue of Domus on the theme of Urban Globalisation is also a call to highlight difference in our world, which is shrinking and becoming impoverished as places are cloned and inventions and sensitive creativity are ignored. It is also a call for politicians to acknowledge that the joy of living for millions of people often depends on architecture.

Domus 1073, novembre 2022
Domus 1073, November 2022

All the unique proposals that showcase this differentiation are constructive in the present day. Among them, Neom is a particularly thought-provoking example, which is why it often arouses criticism in spite of an architectural cast that is rich and obviously largely differentiated. In any case, Neom will also be a major testament to an architectural era, and, like all inventions, it will be critiqued globally, both negatively and positively, and it will animate forums on architecture and culture that are always desirable.

All the insights gathered for this issue of Domus are messages for tomorrow, messages in bottles cast into the sea. So try to understand them and make use of them for the future of humankind, which includes your family, your country and our planet. My stance on urban globalisation revives and revisits the generous approach of Guy Debord and the Situationists, whose relevance, humanism and intelligence remain vital to this day.

We can use their misunderstood ideas as a basis for building a lively, happy world. It is up to a younger generation of ecologists to light the fire. I’d also like once more to highlight the importance of action and concrete invention, beyond inhibiting timidity. Good intentions are all very well, but translating ideas into actions that can change the world is better.

Opening image: Eero Saarinen, Dulles International Airport, Washington DC, 1962. Photo G.E. Kidder Smith

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