2G 60 Lacaton & Vassal > Multimedia presentation with an introduction by Felipe de Ferrari and Diego Grass
by Editorial Gustavo Gili | 2012 february 02
Lacaton & Vassal: on form
In rough buildings such as those designed by the French architects Lacaton & Vassal, great confidence is shown in reality, and that confidence is palpable. On the other hand, the architects do not seem to have much confidence in their designs on an abstract level.
(Ishigami, Junya, ‘Dialogue: Approach to Architecture. Ryue Nishizawa x Junya Ishigami’, Japan Architect, no. 72, Tokyo, winter 2009.)
When Junya Ishigami speaks of ‘abstraction’—and the lack of it in the work and thought of Lacaton & Vassal—he is referring to a fundamental term in his search to attain what he calls ‘space or architecture of the future.’ In our opinion the diagnosis Ishigami makes of the two French architects is not entirely correct, since in actual fact it is not a question of a lack of confidence but rather of renouncing the ethereal formal exploration the Japanese architect himself has accustomed us to. The French architects see little interest in utilizing abstraction as a synonym for creative freedom—the opposite in fact. From the conceptual and constructional point of view, Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal have spent more than twenty years doing practically the same thing: redefining the parameters their commissions (direct or via competition) are based on, lowering the aesthetic expectations (always relative) of their clients, and privileging a logic in which a greater amount of space is associated with a greater quality of life. Understood as a synthesis of rather hard data, abstraction is decisive in order for the French architects to be able to offer their clients extra space, a space that not even they themselves had contemplated. In their buildings this ‘extra space’—which is generally formalized in a greenhouse—introduces the vector of freedom that other architects try and attain via formal operations that seem drawn, as if by magic, from a conjurer’s top hat. Asking Lacaton & Vassal to make exclusive use of their creative authority in its aesthetic version is to ask the impossible from them.
This new number of the magazine 2G on the work of Lacaton & Vassal gives readers the chance to see how the unconditional logic of providing more space acquires new forms and meanings. The type of project presented ranges from the Nantes School of Architecture (a commission all architects have dreamt of), in which the vertical intercalation of open space extends from ground to roof level, to the putting into practice and updating of the logic developed at length in the research published in the book Plus. Large-Scale Housing Developments. An Exceptional Case (Editorial Gustavo Gili, Barcelona, 2007; with Frédéric Druot) was about postwar public housing in France (the Grands Ensembles), in which ‘extra space’ was added to the existing structure in two built examples: a tower block in Paris 17 and another one in the Saint-Nazaire area. No more and no less than that.
Felipe de Ferrari and Diego Grass are 0300TV editors, www.0300tv.com
Nantes School of Architecture