Paulo Mendes da Rocha often says that the function of architecture is nothing more than ‘supporting the unpredictability of life’. Spaces stand everyday life, meetings, landscape, art. Something like a frame, which is often also considered a supporting element of a work of art, since it highlights and, mainly, directs the viewer's gaze to the main object. The phrase of the Brazilian architect combines well with the way that the Lacaton & Vassal office works. The French couple's award raises some questions about how accurate their choices are for the current moment in the world. This includes the philosophy of their work, the design solutions adopted and the material palette generally adopted.
Anne Lacaton: The Latest Architecture and News
Renowned photographer Laurian Ghinitoiu has shared with ArchDaily a series of photos of one of the most influential projects of recent Pritzker Laureates, Anne Lacaton, and Jean-Philippe Vassal. The Transformation of the 530 dwellings in Bordeaux, 3 modernist residential buildings, reflect Lacaton & Vassal's sensitivity towards understanding existing structures. It also highlights how with minimal interventions, radical changes can be made to the habitability and usability of a modernist building -knowing that in Europe, the majority of these structures have ended up being demolished-. This approach was enough to select this transformation as the winner of the EU Mies 2019 Award, for the best contemporary architecture in Europe.
With a formal and material approach that differs from the scenarios we usually find in Architecture, Lacaton & Vassal —a French practice that marks its influence in contemporary times by being awarded the Pritzker Prize 2021— brings an open and generous vision to the field.
Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal founded their architectural studio Lacaton & Vassal in 1987, years after studying and working together at the École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture et de Paysage de Bordeaux. The practice established in Paris has been awarded this year’s prestigious 2021 Pritzker Prize. Their built work leaves strong evidence of what they believe is relevant: sustainability, wellbeing, social responsibility, and the readaptation and the respect of the existing built environment.
The 2021 Pritzker Architecture Prize, architecture’s highest honor, has been granted to Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal, founders of Lacaton & Vassal, the French duo renowned for their multiple sustainable housing projects and for the Palais de Tokyo, a contemporary art gallery in Paris. In their three decades of work, Lacaton & Vassal always prioritized the “enrichment of human life”, benefiting the individual and supporting the evolution of the city.
The Pritzker Prize is the most important award in the field of architecture, awarded to a living architect whose built work "has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity through the art of architecture." The Prize rewards individuals, not entire offices, as took place in 2000 (when the jury selected Rem Koolhaas instead of his firm OMA) or in 2016 (with Alejandro Aravena selected instead of Elemental); however, the prize can also be awarded to multiple individuals working together, as took place in 2001 (Herzog & de Meuron), 2010 (Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of SANAA), and 2017 (Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem, and Ramon Vilalta of RCR Arquitectes).
Transformation of 530 Homes – Grand Parc Bordeaux by Lacaton & Vassal architectes, Frédéric Druot Architecture and Christophe Hutin Architecture has been awarded the 2019 European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award. The innovative renovation of three large blocks of social housing in Bordeaux was praised for “radically improving the space and quality of life of its occupants” and for optimizing their economic and environmental cost of living.
As industry has shifted over the past century, in format, location, and type, the manufacturing and industrial spaces scattered across the western world have been repurposed. You have no doubt seen these structures, though perhaps without realizing. The large windows, high ceilings, and open floor plans optimized for factory work now mark the territory of the “creative class”. Such spaces have been disproportionately appropriated by creative industries such as arts and architecture; think of Herzog + de Meuron’s renovation of the Tate Modern (from a former power station) or the recent collaborative transformation of a locomotive yard into a library in the Netherlands.
Five finalist projects have been shortlisted for the 2019 European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture, an award given jointly by the European Commission and the Mies van der Rohe Foundation. The biennial prize, for which ArchDaily is a media partner, recognizes the Europe-located projects that demonstrate excellence in "conceptual, social, cultural, technical, and constructive terms."
In this video from the Louisiana Museum, Anne Lacaton from the award-winning practice Lacaton & Vassal describes the importance of building upon existing conditions to create new architecture. She shares the firm's approach to architecture, which is to "never withdraw, always add" and their focus on generosity of space, care of the users, and utilization of existing natural resources to create a more affordable architecture.
Lacaton & Vassal have gained worldwide acclaim for their transformative social housing work. They were awarded the Grand Prix national de l'architecture in 2008, the Heinrich Tessenow Medal in 2016, and the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture in 2018, to name a few. Their projects such as the 23 Semi-collective Housing Units in Trignac, France, and Ourcq Jaures Student & Social Housing display a dedication to social responsibility in architecture. In Anne Lacaton's interview, she describes how they mine the richness of existing architecture and the surroundings to create beautiful and affordable designs. Interpreting history as "an addition of layers," she articulates their stance against the idea of tabula rasa and the importance of utilizing the found beauty of existing environments: "We don't see [the existing conditions] as a constraint, we see it as a chance."
Anne Lacaton (France) is an award-winning architect and part of the duo Lacaton & Vassal, having made reuse of existing materials and integration of daylighting in standard construction their signature architecture and adding a social dimension to architectural design.
In honour of its 10th anniversary, the Curry Stone Design Prize will recognize a large group of the world’s most socially conscious and active design practices, in what the Foundation has coined as the Social Design Circle.
Over the course of the year, 100 firms will be added to the Circle for their sustainable, socially inclusive and impactful design work, under twelve specific themes. Each month, select firms’ work will be highlighted individually on the Prize’s website, while also featuring on the Curry Stone Foundation’s new podcast, Social Design Insights.
The following seven practices were selected for the month of February, in response to the theme “Is The Right to Housing Real?”:
Lacaton & Vassal and UMWELT Awarded the 2016 Lisbon Architecture Triennale's Lifetime Achievement and Début Awards
French studio Lacaton & Vassal and Chilean studio UMWELT have been revealed as the recipients of the 2016 Lisbon Architecture Triennale's Lifetime Achievement Award and Début Award, respectively. An award ceremony will take place on the 15th November 2016 at the Centro Cultural de Belém (CCB), followed by a conference convened by Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal.
Metropolis has released their list of five design thinkers leading the world in innovation for their 2016 Game Changers issue. The Metropolis Game Changers issue was created in 2011 to showcase transformational changes that are national in scope, but global in impact, and can be awarded to individuals, firms, projects or ideas within the various spheres of design. Past nominees from the realm of architecture include Michael Maltzan, MASS Design Group, Edward Mazria, Vincent Scully, SOM’s Great Lake Century Project, and former SHoP Principal Vishaan Chakrabarti.
With two architectural firms, an architecture curator and a co-working space driving urban renewal all making the five-strong list, this year's Game Changers issue offers plenty of interest for architectural readers.
At the Chicago Architecture Biennial, the theme selected by directors Joseph Grima and Sarah Herda was deliberately wide in scope, with the expectation that more than one hundred exhibitors would each bring their own perspective on what is “The State of the Art of Architecture.” But where does that leave one of architecture's most widely adopted missions of the 21st century: sustainability? In this article, originally published on her blog Architectstasy as “Chicago Architecture Biennial: The State of the Art of Sustainability,” Jessica A S Letaw delves into five projects that take on sustainability in the context of Chicago's biennial.
At North America's inaugural Architecture Biennial in Chicago, “The State of the Art of Architecture,” architectural firms and practices from all six inhabited continents have been invited to display their work. Spanning all sizes and kinds of projects, the Biennial is showcasing solutions to design problems from spiderwebs to social housing.
US buildings use around 40% of all the country’s energy consumption. It is a disconcerting truth that even if every new building starting construction tomorrow were to be net-zero energy and net-zero water, we’d still be on a crash course, draining more naturally-available resources than our one planet can permanently sustain. In this environment, architectural designers have a special responsibility to educate themselves about innovative sustainable design techniques, from those that have worked for thousands of years to those that, as the Biennial’s title hopefully suggests, are state of the art.
So what does the Biennial have to say about sustainability? Five projects on display demonstrate different approaches at five different scales: materials, buildings, resources, cities, and the globe.
The Pavillion de l'Arsenal have shared a collection of videos from their "Paris Architectures" series. Dive into these short films that document remarkable architecture around France's capital city.
This week we get a glimpse of Lacaton & Vassal Architectes' Ourcq Jaures Student & Social Housing.
The French duo of Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal are known for their delicate interventions, repurposing neglected structures with apparent effortlessness. Originally published on the Harvard Gazette website entitled "They Build, But Modestly," this article recounts the lessons which they offered students in a recent lecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
Around 1980, two young architects finished their training in Bordeaux, France, and moved to Nigeria. In that African nation’s remote regions, they were inspired by the simple structures they saw amid the stark, stunning desert landscapes. The houses were open to the air, had utilitarian thatched roofs, and were made with bits of local wood. Modesty prevailed in structures that also invited beauty.
The lessons of building in Africa stayed with Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal in their Paris-based practice, Lacaton & Vassal: use what is there, stay simple, embrace open air, and honor light, freedom, and grace. They practice social architecture based on economy, modesty, and the found beauty of environments.