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Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal Win 2021 Pritzker Prize

Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal Win 2021 Pritzker Prize

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Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal Win 2021 Pritzker Prize

The 2021 iteration of the Pritzker Prize, often described as the “Nobel of architecture,” has been awarded to French husband-and-wife team Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal, founders of Paris-based architecture firm Lacaton & Vassal. The pair are known for their practice of refurbishing or expanding existing structures using sustainable materials—working with “very simple elements—air, sun—that we don’t have to pay for,” as Vassal told the New York Times—and for their focus on affordable housing projects over a career that has spanned thirty-four years.“Through their ideas, approach to the profession and the resulting buildings,” said the Pritzker jury in a statement, “they have proven that a commitment to a restorative architecture that is at once technological, innovative and ecologically responsive can be pursued without nostalgia.”The pair, who met in the late 1970s at École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture et de Paysage de Bordeaux, first collaborated on a temporary straw hut in Niamey, Niger; the structure was made from bush branches found in the area, and yielded to the wind within two years of its completion. Lacaton and Vassal went on to complete more than thirty projects together, most famously excavating the basement of Paris’s Palais de Tokyo and creating airy spaces within it using raw, minimalist materials. Other notable projects include the upgrade, with Frédéric Druot, of the 1960s Tour Bois-le-Prêtre, outside Paris, for which they created balconies and winter gardens (the project was featured in Museum of Modern Art’s 2010 exhibition “Small Scale, Big Change”), and, with Druot and Christophe Houtin, the transformation and expansion of 530 apartments in Bordeaux, during which they remarkably managed not to displace any of the residents even temporarily. “We have a strong belief in people,” Lacaton, who is the first French female architect to win the award, told the Times. “We have a strong belief that people have the ability to be creative, if given the space to do it.” “If the people inside feel comfortable, feel happy, have the possibility of being alone or looking at the clouds,” said Vassal, “it is this moment that creates architecture.”

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