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Galeries Lafayette

Jean Nouvel 1996

Nouvel is well known for his slick-sensuous glass surfaces. Here, he combined his familiar explorations of transparent and translucent surfaces with attempts to interpret the historic department store building type—of which the Paris Galeries is a commonly-cited example—and to provide a unique face to Friedrichstrasse, historically (and attempting to regain its former glory as) Berlin’s fanciest shopping street.

Nouvel’s interpretation of the department store building type replaces the famous atrium of the Paris Galeries with a number of glass cone-shaped volumes. The main cone rises several stories upwards from street level to the top of the building. A second, smaller, inverted cone drops from street level past two shopping levels and two parking levels underground. The transparent cones are are interesting as sculptural objects, but do little to make a better department store. Architecturally, they neither give quite enough of a sense of vertigo nor succeed in providing relief from what are otherwise cramped merchandise areas. Nonetheless, the cones spur curiosity in visitors, who seem to explore the building itself more than they might. One wonders, what happens to objects dropped into the inverted cone?

Jay Berman 1999


How to visit

Take the Ubahn U2 or U6 to Stadtmitte and walk north along Friedrichstrasse. The building is block 207, between Franzoesische Strasse and Mohrenstrasse. It is open during shopping hours.

While visiting, see also Pei Cobb Freed's neighboring block 206 in Friedrichstrasse-Passagen.



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