Undeterred even by the most urban environments, French architects Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal received this year the Pritzker Prize – the highest distinction in architecture – for their projects that transform urban habitat into uplifting spaces and sustainable, especially in the context of public housing.
Tom Pritzker, president of the Hyatt Foundation, which sponsors the prestigious award, announced the duo’s victory on Tuesday.
“Through their design of private and social housing, cultural and academic institutions, public spaces and urban developments, Lacaton and Vassal re-examine sustainability in their reverence for pre-existing structures, designing projects by doing first inventory of what already exists, ”organizers said in a statement.
“By giving priority to the enrichment of human life … they are able to benefit the individual socially, ecologically and economically, by helping the evolution of a city.”
In his own remarks, Lacaton, 65, noted that “good architecture is open – open to life, open to empower everyone’s freedom, where everyone can do what they have to do. It should not be demonstrative or imposing, but it should be something familiar, useful and beautiful, with the capacity to quietly support the life that will unfold there ”.
Vassal, 67, said: “Our job is to solve constraints and problems, and to find spaces that can create uses, emotions and feelings.
“At the end of this process and all of this effort, there has to be lightness and simplicity, when everything that was before was so complex.
The couple also spoke about how the coronavirus pandemic reinforced their long-held view that people deserve open space and a connection to nature, even when living in housing projects in dense cities.
“It’s clear that in one year a lot has changed, especially when it comes to our relationship with space,” said Lacaton. “We have all been forced to stay at home. This clearly showed that living space is extremely important.
“We believe more and more that we need to open up spaces to the natural elements – to air, sun and natural light,” added Vassal.
One of the ways in which the couple tries to connect the indoors with the outdoors, he said, is the model of an apartment opening onto an enclosed veranda shaped like a greenhouse or “winter garden”. , which itself opens onto a balcony. “It’s a way to bring the concept of a house with a garden to the dense city,” he said.
Lacaton and Vassal met during their architectural studies at the end of the 1970s in Bordeaux. Lacaton then pursued a degree in town planning while Vassal moved to Niger to work in town planning – an experience he called “a second school of architecture”.
In Niger, the two built their first joint project, a locally sourced wooden straw hut.
The couple founded Lacaton & Vassal in 1987 in Bordeaux and moved it to Paris in 2000. They have devoted their energies to private and public housing, as well as museums and other cultural and academic institutions.
The Pritzker Architecture Prize was established in 1979 by the late entrepreneur Jay A Pritzker and his wife, Cindy. The winners receive a $ 100,000 scholarship and a bronze medal.