In a Tokyo which continually amazes Westerners by its collage/chaos and absence of the least contextual coherence, Jean Nouvel and his team chose to proceed by analogy, allusion, illusion, remembrance of sensations, an approach of appearances and reality, reflections and materials, masses that are empty and empty spaces in the built mass.
The Opera House is a pure object rising over the horizon between two towers by Shinjuku, like a black mirror playing with the real and the virtual, an enormous monolith deformed by contained energy (“a whale that has swallowed the Ka’aba” as Philippe Starck put it).
Referring to the traditional art of lute-making, this case contains several elements – the theatres – which are treated as precious instruments.
Visitors move into the lobby by passing between two walls of intense light: a device by which tley are “transmitted” from one place to another that also emphasizes the immateriality of a wall without thickness and the absence of a door. The edifice tends to be sensed as a mysterious and magic object whose sombre opacity contains golden volumes that gleam in the dark.
Olivier Boissière in Jean Nouvel: Jean Nouvel, Emmanuel Cattani and Associates, Éditions Artemis Verlag, Zurich, 1992