As announced this month by Architect Magazine, Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal have been named the recipients of the 2021 Pritzker Architecture Prize. The duo, now the 49th and 50th Pritzker laureates, have completed more than 30 projects throughout Europe and West Africa. According to the jury, “The founders of the Paris-based firm Lacaton & Vassal create designs that ‘refuse any opposition between architectural quality, environmental responsibility, and the quest for an ethical society,'”

Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal, photo courtesy of Laurent Chalet

The pair met in the late 1970s while studying at École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture et de Paysage de Bordeaux, in France. Apparently, the inspiration of much of their work stems from their early years when they experienced an “unintentional exercise in architectural humility” that included a straw hut built in Africa which succumbed to natural elements in only two years time.

According to the article, “Virtually every structure by Lacaton and Vassal projects a sense of openness that engages and expands traditional boundaries of space. From an intimate, single-family residence to a towering urban complex of social housing, their work also encourages a multiplicity of use within each program.” After receiving the award, Lacaton said, “Good architecture is open—open to life, open to enhance the freedom of anyone, where anyone can do what they need to do. It should not be demonstrative or imposing, but it must be something familiar, useful and beautiful, with the ability to quietly support the life that will take place within it.”

Some of their well known structures include:

  • FRAC Nord-Pas de Calais, in Dunkerque, France (2013) – a new, transparent structure that becomes both a foil and an unexpected twin of the adjoining, original building, a postwar shipping facility; built with prefabricated materials, the new space houses galleries, offices, and storage.
  • Saint-Nazaire, France (2011)53 units, low-rise apartments, social housing; integrates materials that maintain a sense of lightness, evident in the diaphanous curtains and solar-shading devices that protect balconies.
  • Maison Latapie in Floirac, France (1993) – The metal-framed house is clad in two materials: opaque fiber-cement sheathing on the street side and transparent polycarbonate.
  • Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2012–2014)

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