"Its Like a Magic Lantern": Jean Nouvel on His New Illuminated Pavilion for a Vintage Brooklyn Carousel

Jane's Carousel opened in Brooklyn Bridge Park last week
(Billy Farrell Agency)

It was difficult to gauge who were more gleeful, the childrenriding the hand-painted carousel, or the excited adults giddily snapping photoswith Jean Nouvel. Clad in all black, including a full-length coat, he waslooking very austere against the gaiety, but he was happy to pose in a greatmany pictures.

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The starchitect was in Brooklyn last week to celebrate theopening of Jane's Carousel, a 1920s relic hand-restored by Jane Walentas, who,with developer husband David Walentas, originally brought Nouvel to Brooklyn 11 years ago to design a never-realized hotel.The couple played a seminal role in bringing Nouvel's work to the United States,and it was for this reason he agreed to design a pavilion, a jewel-likestructure of glass and mirrors, that would allow the carousel to be enjoyedyear-round. ARTINFO met with Nouvel at the affair to sip champagne and scarfdown popcorn while he gave us a rundown of the pavilion's features.

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The Brooklyn Connection

I did my first project for America on this site 11 years agofor David Walentas and Jane Walentas. That was a big a cantilever on the river,on this river, but the urban rules changed, and they never built it. Five orsix years ago I saw Jane and David, and he said to me, Jane worked for tenyears to restore a landmark, a carousel that was from the beginning of 20thcentury. She repainted every horse herself by hand. They decided to put that onthe site, and they said to me, "Do you agree to do the building?" and I said, "Yeah, okay."

The Pavilion as a Jewelry Box

It's very important to emphasize the presence of thecarousel and also to feel it, to feel the movement. It's like a jewel. It's veryprecious.

I thought it was important to put the carousel itself in themiddle — it becomes a main part of the building. I proposed to create that withvery large glasses. These glasses are more than eight-and-a-half by three meters, each one, withno mullions so you see directly the through to the carousel. Also, the sides areopenable doors that you can cancel, you can open totally. In summer you see thecarousel completely, like the pavilion is almost nothing. It will be open everyday during the winter. It will be beautiful with the whiteness of the snow.

The Details in the Ceiling

A lot of things are linked to reflection, mirrors, even thetransition with the glass. You have always a reflection like this. Here, Iwanted a ceiling quiet in materials, with stripes, with mirrors, and the otherpart is all black. In the middle you have this glass roof you can seethe sky through. When it's sunny you seethe the color, or you see the clouds when its not so great as today. All ofthat is in relationship with the carousel. The shape of the round opening is like thecarousel. You see the reflection of the carousel here so everything is done inrelationship with it.

The Magic Lantern

In the night you have curtains that come down and become screens, and youhave projectors in the middle of the carousel. They project the shadows of thehorses on the façades so it's like a magic lantern, like a musical box, and youhave the dance of the horses in the middle of these two huge bridges. You can[see] that from the bridges, from the ledges, from the apartments so it becomesalive. It's an alive little monument, very fragile in the middle of these verysolid bridges.