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Heavens! by - | 1st June, 2023 | Prime Properties

He is undoubtedly one the most influential architects of our time: Born in France in 1945, Jean Nouvel has shaped many of our cities with spectacular buildings over the course of his 50-year career. He has created more than 200 architectural marvels around the world – including renowned projects like the Lyon Opera House, the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the National Museum of Qatar. The private retreat Villa Maeterlinck on the Côte d’Azur also bears his inimitable signature.

Nouvel launched his architectural career in the 1970s with the founding of his Paris of- fice. The “Institut du Monde Arabe”, which he completed in Paris in 1987 after several years of construction, brought Nouvel international renown for the first time. He went on to realise some extraordinary buildings with enormous budgets, particularly in the Gulf states. In 2008, he was awarded the most prestigious accolade in architecture: the Pritzker Prize. The jury recognised his “perseverance, imagination and exuberance, with particular emphasis on his insatiable drive to creative experimentation.” Creativity and inventiveness can translate into many forms in Nouvel’s work. The National Museum of Qatar is original- ly inspired by a desert flower; the spectacular glazed façade of the Institut du monde arabe has blinds that open and close depending on the angle of the sun. When it came to the 34-storey residential tower “One Central Park” in Sydney, Nouvel opted for vertical gardens, with foliage covering the façade thanks to the steel cables installed.

Design elements from previous projects like these can be found in the Villa Maeterlinck in the exclusive Mont Boron neighbourhood of Nice. Just 20 minutes from Monaco and 15 from Nice Airport, the villa lies nestled away on the cliffs of the Côte d’Azur. The old port of Nice is within walking distance from here. The magnificent stainless steel and glass construction was designed by Jean Nouvel in 2015. It borders onto another prestigious property: the Palais Maeterlinck. It was once home to Count Maurice Maeterlinck, hence its name. The historic building has since been transformed into luxurious residences.

Nouvel’s design for Villa Maeterlinck is distinctly subtle and discreet: it is hard to imagine what masterpiece lies behind the main gates. The front entrance to the property is on the roof level, which is entirely green with foliage. A funicular and steps lead to the two residential floors, which span 550 square metres in total and boast four bedroom suites, four bathrooms and a beautiful living area. The centrepiece and highlight of the villa is the 40-metre-long living room. Four doors open to the rear of this space onto a patio with plants growing down from its walls, filled with fauna. Along the front elevation, a vast glazed front- age can be retracted, as though “floating”, and connecting the room almost entirely with the outside space.

This south-facing elevation opens to a teak terrace running the entire length of the living room. It perpetuates the pervading sense of infinity, looking out towards the Mediterranean and the horizon. Partially covered and shaded by the steel structure, this outdoor space also boasts an 18-metre pool to the southwest, and panoramic views of the vast blue expanse beyond. The sunshine can be enjoyed here right through until pre-dinner drinks in the early evening. Minimalist outdoor furniture designed by Paola Lenti provides a pop of colour to perfect the scene.

All living spaces, along with the kitch- en, bedroom suites and bathrooms were de- signed using the finest materials. The stain- less steel construction sets the tone for the interiors, with eye-catching ceiling beams in- tegrating the lighting concept. The steely cool- ness of this structure is juxtaposed by warm tones and dark woods in the panelling and premium fixtures throughout. Jean Nouvel designed the bathrooms in Corian, with ele- gant fittings by Dornbracht.

The 8,600-square-metre grounds feature stone steps that lead down to the coast, with access to the sea. The landscape architect François Navarro took the concept created by French garden designer Gilles Clément to bring a garden to life on the clifftop, unifying the sea and sky. The Mediterranean greenery forms a harmonious contrast with the roofscape – with its grey tones of concrete, metal and stainless steel, and the tropical wood.

PhotographyLaurent Saint Jean