With a professional career of more than twenty years behind them, French architects Anne Lacaton & Jean Philippe Vassal, to whom we devoted an issue of our magazine 2G in 2001, continue to pursue their own coherent, personal approach to architecture. Theirs is a position far removed from formal originality, being based, instead, on an ethical conception that upholds the essential idea of the architect’s social responsibility.
Lacaton & Vassal have constructed a discourse of their own that, although seemingly simple, embraces the complexity of contemporary reality. The few, carefully chosen issues that interest them are tantamount, in themselves, to a wish to go beyond paradigms established by the market. The strategies that shape their work might be summed up as understanding the real needs of the client without formal preconceptions, inventing supplementary extra space through intelligent use of the budget (cost-effectiveness as a planning tool), fomenting freedom of use on the part of users, endowing buildings with flexibility, creating controlled climatic environments by means of technology and simple materials, and the ambition to influence the urban planning of the city through architectural design.
All these concerns, present from the beginning of their career in all their projects, whatever the programme or scale, are developed exhaustively and perseveringly in the projects we present in this number of our magazine 2G.
Among them, we might point to recently finalized projects like the transformation of the Bois-le-Prêtre tower block in Paris—a built example of their investigation into how to act on obsolete blocks of flats from the 1960s and 70s in France (an investigation we include in our book Large-scale Housing Developments: An Exceptional Case)—two multi-family housing projects in Saint-Nazaire, and the School of Architecture in Nantes.
In this volume we also present projects on a city scale such as an urban plan for Dublin, their proposal for the Porte de la Chapelle in Paris, and the La Vecquerie eco-area in Saint-Nazaire. Other projects that are representative of their recent trajectory are the scheme for Holcim Laboratories (Holderbank, Switzerland), the artwork storage facilities for the Fundação Serralves (Matosinhos, Portugal, and the building for the Fond Régional d’Art Contemporain Nord-Pas de Calais in Dunkerque, the completion of which is foreseen for 2013.
The introductory texts by Iñaki Ábalos and Karine Dana each provide a personal and novel look at the work of this French studio. To end, the text by Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal in the nexus section enables us to unequivocally grasp what the coceptual basis of their work as architects is.