They are the gurus of architecture who solvs major energy and social problems, and they have been awarded the prestigious Pritzker Prize 2021. Their mantra is "don't demolish" and Lacaton affirms that "good architecture is open, open to life, open to enhance everyone's freedom, where everybody can do what they need to do."
Lacaton and Vassal founded their architectural firm Lacaton & Vassal in 1987, some time after studying and working together at the École Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture et de Paysage de Bordeaux. The studio, which is based in Paris, is the winner of the 2021 Pritzker Prize.
Regarding their architectural works, they have focused their efforts on social housing, specifically on the rehabilitation of existing residential buildings, without compromising the comfort and well-being of their tenants. They are characterized by choosing modest materials to construct affordable buildings. Private homes are also part of their work, with a focus on greenhouses, cross ventilation, natural lighting and other practices that promote sustainability.
Grand Parc, Bourdeaux. This magnificent project highlights what is important to this couple: sustainability, well-being, social responsibility and the retrofitting of the existing built environment. For the same cost of insulating these 530 apartments, Lacaton and Vassal surrounded the three blocks of this social housing project in Bourdeaux with a new façade that not only insulated the apartments, but also extended them 20 square meters with a gallery, that serves the role of insulation. All this in a minimum period of time and without displacing the neighbors. This same proposal had already been carried out in Paris in 2011, in the Tour Bois le Prêtre or in St. Nazaire in 2014.
Their work responds to the social and environmental needs of our times, but also to the social urgencies that occur in the urban environment. "Demolition is not the solution. It is a waste of energy, time, materials and history, as well as an act of violence. Transformation is making more and better from the existing". Thus is how the couple describes the work they have been doing for more than three decades.
The Pritzker Prize has been awarded since 1979 as an initiative of Jay Pritzker through the Hyatt Foundation. The idea was to reward an architect who "has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity through the art of architecture." Lacaton and Vassal have become the 49th and 50th laureates of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, and in particular, Anne Lacaton, who has regularly led a workshop at MCH for more than 10 years, is the first French woman architect to win the Pritzker Prize. This prize has only honored five women in more than forty years, the first being Zaha Hadid in 2004.
With more than thirty years of professional career with their studio, this is a very much well-deserved award, which recognizes the social and ecological problems we face, giving them the importance they have in our urban society.
This Pritzker Prizer will have an important impact on Architecture Schools too, recognizing architects "radical in their delicacy and audacious in their subtlety" in the words of Alejandro Aravena. Aravena is a Chilean architect, 2012 Pritzker Prize, and also workshop leader at MCH in previous editions. The Award shows that it wants to recognize the exquisite and singular, but also to collaborate in changing what can be improved. That is where architecture has its great challenge today.
We would like to close this article by announcing that, at MCH2021, we will be honored with the upcoming visit of Anne Lacaton, who will lead a workshop in May and June in Madrid. We could not be happier and more excited for this recognition, and once again we will take full advantage of all her experience during her teaching participation this year.
The Master of Advanced Studies in Collective Housing is a professional and international postgraduate programme that is developed on a full-time basis, dealing with advanced architectural design in the city and housing. It is designed and taught jointly by the Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH).
The application period for MCH2022 is already opened, and it will remain so till 31.01.2022 or until vacancies are filled.