The RIBA confirmed Jean Nouvel as the recipient of this year's Royal Gold Medal last week - and at 55 years old he is one of the youngest on record.
The Institute rubber-stamped Nouvel's award - he was tipped as a favourite by the AJ (AJ 17 May) - for what is considered to be the world's most prestigious architectural prize at its council session last week. And the award judge who nominated Nouvel, Amanda Levete, told the AJ that the architect's ability to take risks and the breadth of his vision made him the unanimous choice.
'He's an astonishing architect, ' said Levete.
'What is so refreshing about his work is not just the breadth of his language, which is enormous, but the breadth of the projects he tackles. He'll do something very public, such as a two-star hotel which many wouldn't - they're too snobbish - but he'll do it with the same consideration and verve.'
Institute president Marco Goldschmied said: 'Jean Nouvel is one of the world's finest architects, and he justly deserves to be awarded the 2001 Royal Gold Medal. His strength of architectural expression is almost unmatched. In a relatively short career to date he has achieved truly international status. He is an exemplar in the very best tradition of European innovation and adventure.'
Nouvel is most famous for a series of buildings such as the Arab Institute in Paris (pictured opposite), Lyon Opera House, the Cartier Foundation in Paris (above), the New Palace of Justice in Nantes, and schemes including the extension to the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid.
The citation adjudged Nouvel as 'simply a wonderful designer' with work which 'shines through in an age of blandness, imitation or doubt, as having both clarity and finesse, originality and lyricism.' It was also 'haunting', broadly high-tech work, but boasted 'a certain romanticism and intricacy' from a man who is 'very warm, enthusiastic and even naughty'. 'With structures emerging from Prague, Minneapolis and Japan, Nouvel confirms his position as a consistently impressive architect, ' concluded the citation.
The Royal Gold Medal, given to recognise a lifetime's achievement on an international stage, was last year awarded to Bilbao's Guggenheim designer Frank Gehry. Judges chaired by Goldschmied this year consisted of Professor Peter Cook, Piers Gough, Amanda Levete, Richard MacCormac and past president David Rock.
Nouvel will accept the Royal Gold Medal at Portland Place on 21 June and will attend a special dinner to mark the occasion.