Tom Pritzker, Chairman of The Hyatt Foundation, which sponsors architecture’s highest honor, the Pritzker Architecture Prize, announced this week that Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal, of France, have been selected as the 2021 Laureates.
Lacaton and Vassal, who met in the 1970s, began working together in the 1980s, when Vassal relocated to Niger, West Africa, and Lacaton visited him there to discuss a new approach to architecture and urban planning. While many Pritzker winners are cited for their dramatic contemporary design work, Lacaton and Vassal are most admired for their user-friendly, sustainable structures, with “work that responds to the climatic and ecological emergencies of our time, as well as social urgencies, particularly in the realm of urban housing.”
Their projects emphasize inexpensive expanded living space, with balconies, access to nature, and greenhouse technologies for winter gardens. By removing facades and extending “bioclimatic balconies,” they have transformed older housing projects with box-like apartments to create “flexible space, featuring large windows for unrestricted views of the city, thus reimagining not only the aesthetic of social housing, but also the intention and possibilities of such communities within the urban geography.”
Adhering to a precept of “never demolish,” Lacaton and Vassal undertake restrained interventions to upgrade dated infrastructure while allowing enduring properties of a building to remain. These transformations of older structures are complemented by a range of new designs, such as École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Nantes, Cap Ferret House, and the dramatic Café Una in the Museumsquartier, Vienna.
From their Paris-based practice established in 1987, Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal have completed more than 30 projects throughout Europe and West Africa.