This year's Pritzker Prize has just been announced. It went to French architects Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal. This is an excellent choice.
The practice is famous for creatively reusing old, often run-down buildings and turning them into exciting and beautiful new places. Lacaton and Vassal gained world-wide attention when they refurbished an unloved post-war tower block in the suburbs of Paris. Rather than demolishing it, the architects opted for a more sustainable approach and reinvented the building. The result is a stunning piece of architecture with generous winter-gardens and attractive flats flooded with daylight.
One of the earlier works of the practice was the renovation of the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. The architects radically transformed the Art Deco building and created a dazzling exhibition space for contemporary art. The FRAC art gallery in Dunkirk which opened in 2013 is another successful example of the practice's intelligent approach to reusing existing structures. Here, Lacaton and Vassal gave a derelict workshop a new lease of life and complemented it with a new exhibition space.
In the light of climate emergency and dwindling resources, the Pritzker committee's decision promotes the move towards a new architecture that is both sustainable and beautiful. The jury makes the point "that they have proven a commitment to a restorative architecture that is at once technological, innovative, and ecologically responsive can be pursued without nostalgia".
There is a lot that we can learn from Lacaton and Vassal in terms of creating functional, sustainable and beautiful places.