Lacaton & Vassal

The French architect duo Lacaton & Vassal are known for their precise intervention in public housing. In this article, you will learn about the best-known works of this unique duo.

Lacaton & Vassal were awarded the Pritzker-Price in 2021. They reinvigorated the modernist hopes and dreams to improve the lives of many by taking care to generously add what is needed to improve existing structures or coming up with ways to preserve the magic of a specific space.

What works did Lacaton Vassal build?

This is a brief overview over some of their most famous works.

Latapie House Floirac | 1993

This was the first building, in which Niemeyer made ample use of curves. There are no columns or slabs that bear the load of the structure, but hangar-like vaults. For this very reason and the wolf-like appearance of the dog on the mural, the archbishop Antonio des Santos Cabrai called the chapel unfit for religious purposes. Thankfully, the building was protected from destruction by Juscelino Kubitschek, mayor of Belo Horizonte. The small church is now a part of the Pampulha modern Ensemble, a UNESCO designated collection of Niemeyer buildings.

Place Léon Aucoc, Bordeaux | 1996

Another controversial project of Lacaton & Vassal was a park in Bordeaux. After visiting the site, they concluded that the park didn´t need anything new. They saw no need for embellishment because they found it was perfect as it was. Yet, the place, like everything, needed care. Instead of repacing the ground cover with another, the benches with more up to date designs, they decided to leave it as it is, replacing only the gravel. For the health of the park, they suggested general maintenance work, cleaning the square more often, treating the sick trees and modifying the traffic just slightly.

Maison, Cap Ferret | 1998

The main objective for the project was preserving the sand dune and vegetation of the site since the continuity of the pine trees seen from the lake is very important to the larger area. To preserve the trees, the house lifts up above the ground and is hung on columns. Walking under the structure, they appear like the trunks of the nearby trees. Looking upward to the underside of the building, light is reflected by the undulations of the aluminum which bounces of the lake. This gives the appearance that the underside of the house is brighter than its walls. This is caused by the perpendicular orientation of the undulations to the bay. Inside the house, the tree-trunks divide and organize the living space. The beauty of a forest is combined and reinforced in the concentrated interior of the house.

Tour Bois le Pretre, PARIS | 2017

This renovation of the Tour Bois le Pretre, built in 1961 by Raymond Lopez, was done in cooperation with Druot Architecture and Hutin Architecture. To create meaningful spaces and quality of life, they talked to all of the inhabitants of the 100 dwellings. This was important to the design process as it allowed the architects to take care of individual needs. In their conversation with the inhabitants, they were surprised by their inventiveness and creativity. They added 26 square meters to a 44 square meter dwelling. The new space is adjustable by using transparent panels, transforming it into balconies and winter gardens. This is a very efficient way of saving and storing energy. In comparison to foam insulation, they bring the extra benefit of being a place for people to meet and practice gardening. The inhabitants ended up being very pleased with the final result.

The Design Philosophy of Lacaton & Vassal

As Architects, they see their role as taking care of each situation, being and thing. Lacaton & Vassal believe that architecture and urban planning must be done from the inside, they start from the smallest individual space, asking each family in the structure and work their way out. This gives them the ability to tackle the right problems and design the space with precision.

In their efforts to create public, affordable housing, they have learned that “more space” is not a question of budget but of planning. When renovating a building, they believe that adding something to the space is always better than tearing down an old structure to create a new one in contemporary style. Adding 50% to a building gives 1.5, while demolishing and rebuilding it gives only 1.0. They try to understand what exactly is needed in each situation. Their job is grounded in a deep understanding of generosity and affordability, which is to the best of both the inhabitant, as well as the owner.


Lacaton & Vassal do a great service to both the inhabitants as well as the architecture community. Rewarding them with the Pritzker-Price can be seen as a wakeup call for colleagues to concentrate more on the individual than before. If you enjoyed this article and would like to learn more about public housing, consider reading this article about Alejandro Aravena on my website.

Thanks for reading

~ Julian

Sources used to provide this overview: [accessed April 24th, 2021]

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