Pritzker Prize winners praised for ethos to “never demolish, never replace”

30 March 2021
  • Aquitanis
  • Aquitanis
  • Philippe Ruault
  • Philippe Ruault
  • Philippe Ruault
  • Philippe Ruault

Lacaton & Vassal




Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal win with sustainable design principles

Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal have been announced as the 2021 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureates, with the award ceremony due to take place later this year. The jury praised the architects’ overall approach to sustainability, which involves a careful assessment of on-site elements and a respect for pre-existing structures. This is particularly apparent in their work to improve social housing projects, where buildings originally conceived in a spirit of optimism in the 60s and 70s have later become symbols of social dysfunction. Rather than seeking to tear down and start again, Lacaton and Vassal follow an ethos to “never demolish, never replace”, uncovering the original intent to create better way of living with careful interventions to improve the residents’ quality of life.

“Our work is about solving constraints and problems, and finding spaces that can create uses, emotions and feelings. At the end of this process and all of this effort, there must be lightness and simplicity, when all that has been before was so complex,” explains Vassal. An example of this considered approach is the transformation of three buildings at Grand Parc in Bordeaux. Built in the early 60s, Grand Parc is an urban residential complex containing more than 4000 apartments. The renovation of buildings G, H and I by Lavan and Vassal, alongside Druot and Christophe Hutin, is the first phase of an extensive renovation programme for the whole site.

The architects saw the existing buildings as a ready-made opportunity to follow the principle that the provision of high-rise buildings is a responsible, sustainable way to construct for the future. In transforming the 530 apartments, resources were concentrated on generous extensions to improve the interiors and give apartment residents the opportunity to enjoy outside space as if they were living in a house. The addition of extended winter gardens and balconies provide more natural light, as well as offering extensive views that result from the city’s low topography. 

The Pritzker Prize jury citation stated: “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. They accomplish this through a powerful sense of space and materials that creates architecture as strong in its forms as in its convictions, as transparent in its aesthetic as in its ethics.”

Lucy Nordberg
TenderStream Head of Research

This tender was first published by TenderStream on 01.03.2011 here

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