Place and Space

2021 Pritzker Prize to Anne Lacaton and Jean Philippi Vassal

Tuesday, 16th March 2021

The Pritzker (architecture’s most prestigious prize) goes to Anne Lacaton and Jean Philippe Vassal. They “believe that every structure can be repurposed, reinvented, reinvigorated.”

“There are too many demolitions of existing buildings which are not old, which still have a life in front of them, which are not out of use,” said Lacaton, 65. “We think that is too big a waste of materials. If we observe carefully, if we look at things with fresh eyes, there is always something positive to take from an existing situation.”

“Designing affordable housing has always been paramount, the architects said, because quality is often sacrificed and the results are substandard. Through the use of simple designs and basic materials, they have challenged the notion that generous space and limited funds are incompatible.

“This isn’t about value engineering — reducing certain elements to bring down the cost of the whole — the architects said. Instead, it is about what Lacaton described as “an attitude of careful observation”: investigating a site before rushing to put your mark on it, exploring what might be working before focusing on what should be fixed.”

A house may look “ugly or boring” to some, Vassal explained. But look inside and you may find “a lady who offers you cake and coffee. Behind these rooms there is life.”

This is attention to place, and I love to see it, and love to see it rewarded and recognized. Too often it is seen as too small. But often, listening to place and to those who inhabit it can show forth potential that the biggest budgets and most spectacular designs can miss. This is architecture at its best, which is to say, its most human and its most attentive to the natural world.

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