The Paris based firm of Lacaton & Vassal is widely known for the restoration and rehabilitation of older Modernist housing blocks in Paris, Saint-Nazarre and Bordeaux.
Founded by Anne Lacaton & Jean Phillipe Vassal, Lacaton & Vassal made headlines in 2004 with the publication of a manifesto: PLUS:Large Scale housing Development- an Exceptional Case, which pushed back against an initiative by the French government to demolish wide swaths of it’s post-war social housing stock. The housing stock had long been considered an eyesore, and the government planned to replace it with smaller, albeit more expensive new units. PLUS tackled the social engineering which was implied in the plan: the poor were occupying valuable urban real estate. By demolishing, moving, and re-pricing, many of them could be forced out to the city’s periphery where land was less desirable.
Lacaton & Vassal have advanced a dictum of ‘It’s a question of never demolishing, never removing or replacing, but always adding, transforming and using.’ Through their writing, teaching and practice, they’ve been able to successfully argue that readaptation of social housing stock is preferable on aesthetic, economic and ecological terms. In so doing, they continue to work against a pernicious form of gentrification that often targets the poor in the name of beautifying the city.
Lacaton & Vassal’s design philosophy has extraordinary implications for sustainability as well. Their work makes an elegant argument for the philosophy of reuse as an ecologically preferable option over new construction, regardless of how ‘green’ the new construction might be. To that end, their work utilizes creative reuse of space, maximizing the flexibility of the plan and integrating winter gardens for the use of residents.
We were able to speak with Anne and Jean Phillipe about their methods and philosophy, and their episode airs February 23rd, 2017. Mark your Calendars!