At the turn of the 90ies, Jean Nouvel was called to Prague as a large urban redevelopment study was being undertaken by the city on the right side of the river Vltava, south of the Castle in the Smichov district. All along the studies Nouvel emphasized the irrelevance of long term planning which has proven unfit in most post-war projects and the necessity of an approach delicately phased. The Smichov urban plan illustrates Nouvel’s strategy of induction or “acupuncture”.
The Andel complex is the first building realized within this plan and developed by the Dutch firm ING which had participated in the early studies. It is located on a major site of the district with a metro station underneath and a tramway line running on the main street by the building. Aimed at “lighting up” the district, the project features a mixed-used program featuring a shopping mall, commerce and office spaces which could be converted into housing in the future. The buildings occupy three sides of the city block with a large public space on the main street and a square on the upper level. The complex bends to the genius locii and exhibits strong industrial features with metal siding. This tough look is softened by a series of graphics clothing the facades : verses of chosen poems on the metal siding, cloudy forms serigraphied on glass parts, colorful canopies using trade marks at commerce level… a way for Nouvel to plug into the tradition of a city with its painted and written facades. The theme of the angel is related to the name of the place. The big figure serigraphied on glass which enhances the drum building at the north-east corner of the site is also linked to the will of the architect to introduce contemporary imagery in his buildings whether of photographic or cinematographic origin. Here, Wim Wender’s character of “the Sky over Berlin” stands as a tutelary figure to the district. As a coincidence a small fresco of an angel was discovered during ground work : today it adorns a wall of the metro station.