French studio Lacaton & Vassal awarded with the Pritzker Architecture Prize 2021
“Never demolish, never remove or replace, always add, transform, and reuse!”.
Alongside architect Frédéric Druot, their 2004 “Plus” manifesto convinced the French government to refurbish, rather than raze, the country’s public housing.
According to the architects, “Transformation is the opportunity of doing more and better with what is already existing”……. “The demolishing is a decision of easiness and short term. It is a waste of many things — a waste of energy, a waste of material, and a waste of history. Moreover, it has a very negative social impact. For us, it is an act of violence.” Economic, environmental and social sustainability are key principals in their work.
Their first project together – a home, constructed from locally sourced bush branches, was completed in Niger
The studio has designed a number of cultural and educational buildings, including the Nantes School of Architecture’s riverside campus, completed in 2009, and the 2012 expansion of the Palais de Tokyo art gallery in Paris by 20,000 square meters.
But giving new life to France’s post-war social housing buildings is what has attracted the most architectural awards, including the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture and the prestigious Mies van der Rohe Award. The studio’s major housing projects include its restoration of three social housing blocks in Grand Parc Bordeaux with Frédéric Druot, ( Mies van der Rohe Award 2019), the renovation of the crumbling 1960s Tour Bois-le-Prêtre tower block in Paris, also in collaboration with Frédéric Druot, (2011), 53 low-rise social-housing apartments in Saint-Nazaire and a 59-unit social housing development at Jardins Neppert, Mulhouse.
‘Good architecture is open – open to life, open to enhance the freedom of anyone, where anyone can do what they need to do, it should not be demonstrative or imposing, but it must be something familiar, useful and beautiful, with the ability to quietly support the life that will take place within it.’ says Lacaton.
Announcing the Pritzker Award winners, the Jury said: “The modernist hopes and dreams to improve the lives of many are reinvigorated through their work that responds to the climatic and ecological emergencies of our time, as well as social urgencies, particularly in the realm of urban housing”.