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French architect Jean Nouvel presents 'joie de vivre' offices at Milan Design Week
French architect Jean Nouvel speaks during an interview. AFP PHOTO / OLIVIER MORIN.

By: Amélie Herenstein

MILAN (AFP).- French architect Jean Nouvel presented what he called "joie de vivre" offices at Milan Design Week, telling AFP in an interview this week that he was waging war against "cloned and alienating" work space.

Nouvel's project is called "Office for Living" and is one of the highlights of the annual furniture fair, which opened this week and runs until Sunday in the Italian business capital.

"It's terrible because we have the impression of working in worlds where you are just a number," said Nouvel, 67, sitting in a space he created as the marketing office of Ducati motorbikes.

"Everyone is in the same type of space, everyone has the same furniture. It's cloning," said Nouvel, who won the prestigious Pritzker prize in 2008 -- considered the "Nobel" for architecture.

Milan Design Week brings together more than 2,000 exhibitors in 200,000 square metres (2.2 million square feet) of space. Tens of thousands of visitors are expected.

Nouvel complained that one of the problems of modern cities was "zoning" which creates distinct areas for residential and office space and lengthens journey times to and from work.

"In 30 or 40 years, we will be amazed to remember the unliveable conditions proposed by most offices today," said Nouvel, whose signature projects include the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris.

Nouvel is also the designer behind Copenhagen's Concert Hall, the Quai Branly Museum in Paris and an extension to the Queen Sofia Museum in Madrid.

Nouvel was speaking in a large loft space at the fair with undulating cloth walls, intended to demonstrate what a transformation of a hangar or an industrial warehouse could look like.

It is one of five exhibition spaces set up by Nouvel throughout the fair, including an office in a converted 19th-century apartment and an open-plan office arranged to avoid what a booklet described as "the usual totalitarian and repetitive nature of office systems".

"We're not all little chickens at a chicken farm. The issue is how to lighten up, how to consider the time we spend at work a pleasure too," Nouvel said.

"We can work anywhere today and we have to work anywhere. And we can live everywhere.... "We spend a lot longer at work than at home," he said.

Four other designers -- Ron Arad, Michele de Lucchi, Marc Newson and Philippe Starck -- have also contributed to Jean Nouvel's project, showing their studios via video link and outlining their ideas.

Nouvel has also brought in expert advice from four "sages" -- fashion designer Agnes B, photographer Elliott Erwitt, artist Michelangelo Pistoletto and filmmaker Alain Fleischer.

The projects presented by Nouvel at the Salone are intended to be realistic and easy to implement.

Nouvel said he mainly wanted to "open eyes".

"I think that the desire is there, that we see it throughout the expo. People tell us 'Do you think it's possible?' Yes, it's possible".

© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse

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