The Pritzker Prize has gone to an architectural practice that prefers to understand and reimagine buildings rather than bring in the demolition team and wipe away the past – and the results have been beautiful and successful for the communities involved.
Often architects, as do consultants of all industries, come into a space and want to start from new; they want to demolish what’s there, clear away the history, and then build their idea – fresh from the paper they designed it on.
Sometimes this architecture can be ‘of a place’; sometimes that building will only work in that space, but too often, architects bring designs that they want to build that could have been placed anywhere in any context. Not so for Lacaton and Vassal.
For thirty years, the pair have looked to transform existing structures, using the proposed demolition budget to show what can be achieved in repurposing the existing buildings and giving them a new life in keeping with what the existing residents want and need.
Not quite in the way that Bjarke Ingels created the Maritime Youth House at Amager in Denmark – where although the architecture is of the place, it is new and created to give a space a new life; Lacaton and Vassal look at how they can extend and expand the existing space or to put it to new use and add on a space that’s required to bring people in such as the FRAC, Nord pas de Calais.
Maybe if we all started with this approach – not the new broom, but taking the time to understand a community and working with people not to them or at them, then not just architecture – but the world could become a more economic, ecological, and compassionate space.