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The Antony School is exemplary in several respects: it illustrates Nouvel’s desire to develop a critical architecture stigmatizing the absurdities of a system, and it paves the way for a modern aesthetic drawing inspiration from avant-garde movements in the contemporary arts. The project obtained the prior approval of teachers and parents. Constrained by the policies of the Education Ministry’s standardized modular industrial systems which required architects to adopt a “meccano” type 50 pieces constructional kit, Nouvel chooses to se more than three to use no more than three elements – past, beam and facade panel. These elements, which in combination were supposed to provide flexibility, were used by Nouvel to achieve a rigid, academic plan. As a crowing heresy, the expressed structure of the entry atrium is quite superfluous.
Nouvel has replaced the solemn, bombastic atmosphere of traditional pedagogy by playful surroundings no doubt more attuned to the teenage world than to that of schoolteachers. The features which he has introduced include spaces with coloured neon strip lightings mysterious numbers stenciled and rough concrete-block walls, and mock classical statuary suffused with red. The overall effect produces a violent aesthetic inspired by the Saturday night disco and certain aspects of conceptual art or arte povera in a jubilant rediscovery of architectural freedom.
Olivier Boissière in “Jean Nouvel“, Ed. Terrail, Paris, 2002