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High praise for “never demolish” approach to sustainable design

Lacaton & Vassal win “Nobel Prize” for Architecture

Anne Lacaton and Jean-Phillipe Vassal have been selected as 2021 Pritzker Architecture Prize laureates and are acclaimed for their work on public housing and sustainable design. Under the mantra of “Never demolish, never remove or replace, always add, transform, and reuse!” – their approach pursues economic, social and environmental performance that addresses the challenges of building smarter, greener and for all.

The Pritzker Architecture Prize jury headed by Alejandro Aravena – also a Board member of the LafargeHolcim Foundation since 2013 – noted the importance of innovative refurbishment and reconfiguration in achieving a more sustainable built environment: Transformation is the opportunity of doing more and better with what already exists. “Demolition is a waste of many things – a waste of energy, a waste of material, and a waste of history,” explained Aravana in the Pritzker Architecture Prize jury citation.

The LafargeHolcim Foundation is delighted to have enjoyed a long association with Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal. The founders of Lacaton & Vassal illustrated their “never demolish” principle in presenting more than 30 completed projects throughout Europe and West Africa as keynote speakers at the LafargeHolcim Forum in 2019 (Lacaton) and 2007 (Vassal).

F19-Lacaton-476a.jpgMake do is about making better use of what we already have,” enthused Anne Lacaton at the LafargeHolcim Forum Re-materializing Construction held in Cairo. “It’s about considering the existing as a resource and as a value – and not about always seeing it as unsatisfactory and too constraining.”

Jean-Phillipe Vassal stated at the LafargeHolcim Forum Urban_Trans_Formation held in Shanghai, that it’s critical to focus on the holistic deliverables of a project. “For sustainability to encourage innovation in architecture, it needs well-defined, productive goals – not straight-jacket standards!”

The work of Lacaton & Vassal includes private cultural and university buildings, social housing and urban developments. The transformation of 530 dwellings in Bordeaux won the 2019 EU Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award. Three social housing buildings were renovated instead of being demolished by carefully adding space to the existing buildings in the form of generous extensions, winter gardens and balconies that allow for freedom of use and thereby support the lives of the residents.

Nantes-007xa.jpgTheir holistic approach to the design of the Nantes School of Architecture was featured in a LafargeHolcim Foundation booklet on exemplary approaches to sustainable construction. Lacaton & Vassal more than doubled the school’s usable surface area from 12,500 to 26,000sqm, adding 5,000sqm of double-height unprogrammed spaces, plus another 6,000sqm of exterior terraces and balconies. The use of environmentally friendly prefabricated building systems dramatically reduced construction costs, while increasing the thermal performance and structural strength of the building. As an architecture school, the building makes a long-lasting and influential impression on future generations of architects, who will go on to broadcast its sustainable values nationally and internationally.

Anne Lacaton was a member of the Global LafargeHolcim Awards competition jury in 2021 and Awards jury for Europe in 2017. Furthermore, Jean-Phillipe Vassal was a member of the Awards jury for Europe in 2014 (as head), and also in 2008 and 2011.

Lacaton & Vassal reexamine sustainability in their reverence for pre-existing structures, conceiving projects by first taking inventory of what already exists. It is an indication of the importance of sustainable approaches to the built environment as well as the innovative and sensitive approaches of Lacaton & Vassal that they have been recognized for their profound and timely contribution.

Last Updated: March 18, 2021
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Chicago, IL, USA
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