Yesterday was the public opening of Jane's Carousel, the meticulously stored vintage carousel set inside an acrylic jewelbox designed by French starchitect Jean Nouvel, oriented at the tip of Brooklyn Bridge Park and proxy to gobsmacking views of the New York skyline. We cornered Nouvel at the end of a rainy, wind-whipped afternoon on the Dumbo waterfront and he was gracious enough to answer our questions about his history with the Walentases and all that acrylic (though inquiries about the future of Tower Verre were met with polite rebuttal).
On meeting David and Jane Walentas: "I did my first project in America for them. I won a competition to do a great hotel and cinema and theater and shopping area, but then they change the rules [and it was scrapped]-- that was eleven years ago. Five years ago Jane and David said to me that they wanted to put the carousel on this site."
On initial plans for the structure: "I didn't want to build a solid house with a door and some windows, or a little round greenhouse, that would be absolutely without interest. So we negotiate, and arrive at the solution to have a square building to keep the feeling of the carousel itself with almost nothing around. Initially I did a project that was a sliding box and on a good day you would slide it out and there's the carousel. But here you can completely open two facades and you are outside."
On the carousel at night: "The night is very important on the site; when it's 6pm, you fill the carousel live with the light inside. And you see the golden lamps and the horsies and it's perfect. The curtains arrive when nobody is inside and the screens come down and you see the dance of the horses. When you are in the buildings around or on the bridge or on a boat you can see that. It's a kind of ritual that reacts to the seasons, the weather, the night, the day."
On choosing acrylic: "I could create a huge wall of glass without structure. And with this feeling, with the thickness and light of glass, but with distortions. I wanted a special materiality, like the thickness of crystal." (At the opening address, Nouvel said his "original dream was to encase it all in glass but getting down to a more realistic budget, acrylic glass turned out to offer something even more interesting," dismissing concerns that acrylic will yellow over time.)
Takeaway: "I hope it can become a fragile little monument in the city."
And, on the status of the proposed MoMA Tower Verre: "I can say nothing. I'm waiting. I hope to see some answers here in the next month; I hope."
· Jane's Carousel coverage [Curbed]
· Taking a Spin With Nouvel [A/N Blog]