Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal, “Freedom of Use”

Tonight we have Anne Lacaton
and Jean-Philippe Vassal as our guests and lecturers. I have to begin this
presentation saying that we had a very
special relationship since our career began. So maintaining a friendship
along many indicates. In several cases, I have
written about their work. And the last time– one
year and a half or something like that– in the
[inaudible], four years ago? Probably four years ago. But I want to introduce them
by saying that both of them studied in the School
of Architecture in Boulder, finishing
their studies about 1980. Then they had some
experiences in town planning, and traveling to West
Africa to Nigeria. They returned some
years later to France. Since then, they have taught
in different schools of Europe, but also the States, and have
been a [inaudible] professor at the GSD in study
abroad in 2010, 2011. She has been teaching
in Los Angeles, and in the ETSAM in Madrid. Almost every year, she
comes a couple of days. And Philippe has
taught in Dusseldorf, in Los Angeles also,
Berlin, and now continues teaching in Berlin
in UDK school as a professor. From the moment they finished
their Latapie house in 1993, very well-known because
of the winter garden that spans the interior
of the house, they have gained prestige with
an architecture celebrated for its social proposed,
economy of means, and critical understanding
of sustainability with a position very
much constructed in discussing the whole
bureaucratic apparatus around the lead ranking
systems, et cetera, et cetera. Low tech and
alternative architecture have been always [inaudible]
associated with them. That in my understanding,
explain very superficially both their work
and their success. In the sense of
the success, I have to say they have won
very important awards along their career,
including the Grand Prix nationale [inaudible] in
France, the International Philosophy of
[inaudible] in 2009, and the [inaudible] Award,
et cetera, et cetera. And they have also some– oh
not award, the finalist, no? And they have written–
I was thinking with what. And they have some monographs
published, and essays. Some of them published in
Spain by Gigi, two in France, one at least in Germany,
and one in Japan. That’s just the A
plus U, the geography. Well, I don’t want
it to be too long. But it’s going to be a little
bit longer than I wanted. The only important thing I want
to say in this introduction is that some critics
have overemphasized a relatively naive
of these architects, confusing the apparent
simplicity of their projects with a sort of
anti-architectural approach. Or have emphasized
the social side, setting it against
the usual formalist ticks, which are the two
different ways to understand their work. I think that to perceive
their works seriously, we have to address the fact
that they have constructed a very personal discourse
that is removed from these two lines. The basis of these
schools maybe link it to an experience of culture,
of our generation that has not many difficulties. I mean, it has a kind
of easiness to navigate between high and low culture. And this has created its
own signs of identity from this kind of mixing
of popular culture, and certain more
sophisticated references. One of them, for
me, is very obvious. And I think that today we
will have a demonstration. Is Mies van der Rohe. I mean, Mies van der
Rohe is understood as a social architect, which
he was not, by the way. But taking the Lake
Shore Drive apartment as a model that, obviously,
has been replicated by many, many times losing
the original qualities of the model, its special
dignity, internal fluidity, and projection towards the
landscape that constitute the true nature of the prototype
invented in the Lake Shore Drive. They have come back to this
kind of basis of the prototype. When they began proposing to
restore Social Towers instead of demolishing them, adding
perimeter rings as buffer spaces around, just adding
exactly the same thing, a special dignity, internal
fluidity, and projection towards landscape. So I think that this integrity
of the work of Mies van der Rohe read in very
different terms is very present in their work. Also, we can talk about
Levi-Strauss, Claude Levi-Strauss, the structural
anthropologist, especially his love for primitive
or aboriginal cultures, and for the city too. And very present,
almost in a literal way, in the firm origin in Africa,
and the love that they have maintained since then
for ultra basic solutions in whatever commission
they have where others see opportunities for
unfolding formal exuberance. Still today, they
assist in showing in their lectures– I don’t
know if today you will do it– the primitive straw built
by them in May in mid-1984, a place where necessity
and lack of resources helps to reinforce the
authenticity of the work of the architect. And authenticity is a word
that explains very well their attitude. There are many other references. I always comment–
and this is something that Marcos Garcia
Rojo which is around told me time ago that one of
the favorites films of the film is [inaudible]
erotic film [french], a splendid celebration. I love this film too, a
splendid celebration of humor, improvisation, and blue
collar attitude, attitudes that only constraints
can impose so radically, as the film shows. And I think that this film has a
great impact in the methodology of work at the office. Or I would– just to close
this very long presentation. I’m sorry for this. Is the influence of
Michel de Montaigne, and his amazing
invention of the figure of the essay in the last
decades of the 16th century. I think it’s clearly a source
of inspiration for them. All the essays are in
Michel de Montaigne are always for surprising
and paradoxical, at the same time
obvious but respectful of what was already there. This happens in their
project in Dunkerque, where instead of
fulfilling with new slabs the barn that was the
origin of the program, they just planned
to duplicate it, and maintained integrity
of the original. And they were able to win
the competition, which is very lucky to
have a good jury that understand the economy and
efficiency of the idea. And I just want to
conclude here saying that what we see in the
work of Lacaton and Vassal is that nothing in
architecture is what it looks like at first glance. Many have confounded
the apparent simplicity with a rejection of style
or architectural culture, as if just social concerns
were able to produce memorable architecture. My understanding is
exactly the opposite. Only by unfolding the
cultural layers that are condensed in
their work, only through sophisticated continuity
with history, context, city, modernist industrial
business systems we will be able to understand
their success and the lessons their work bring to
all for us tonight. Please join me in welcoming
Anne and Jean-Philippe. Thank you very much for your
talk and your invitation. We will present some
of our projects. And it’s never easy to
select some of them. Because we love all of them. And they are all connected,
responding, continuing a way. But first before
presenting this project, we would like to share,
briefly, the state of our personal positions and
philosophy of design today. Sorry to read again something. But it’s– the city
from and by housing, the conditions for a city are
based on the combination of two objectives. To produce quality of living,
situations for great comfort intensifies a territory. These ambitions have to
remain inter-dependent and simultaneous. It is no longer possible to
claim the evolution of the city without questioning the
reasons to live and stay there. Defending the pleasure
of living seems, for us, eminently political today. The special generosity
is the starting point of a possible social life. To transform the city
is first to transform the way we look at it. It means to look at it as
a collection of capacities and energies to expand, and not
as an inert mass for modeling. It is to think at the city as
an aggregation of activities and living spaces. Attitude– it means to provide
extraordinary responses in terms of quality of housing. In priority, it means to
make all existing situation outstanding by giving priority
to what is unloved, disastrous, or unfinished to all
that is sensitive. This is not to increase
urban disparity by emblematic or
isolated actions, but to re-balance the
functions and urban pleasures. At the same time, it is to
initiate the construction of new housing in
synchronized action with a transformation or
fragile, already-existing situations. And to ask simple questions. Is there everything
needed there? What is missing? Accurately, it is
a work that focuses on accuracy, sensitivity,
kindness, attention. And attention paid to people
uses structures, trees, paved soils, bugs, everything
that already exists. And that has allowed, so far,
to host, to guide, to charm. It is to consider
with equal attention all kind of geographies. It is to study the potential
for evolution and transformation of each constructed situation,
each already-equipped territory. The inventory is a
tool of knowledge. The inventory– exhaustive,
comprehensive, accurate data needs, states,
aims the gathering of information and
parameters to go beyond the usual generic terms–
housing, urban form, zoning. It examines the
factual situations. It lists needs case-by-case. And it focuses on the variety
of scales, characters, constraints, regulations,
absences, challenges, and opportunities. The inventory is based on the
expertise already undertaken by urban actors and
pushes it forward. Precepts– it is about
never demolishing. It is about to never undoing,
but to add and strengthen the balance of existing
urban organizations. It is about not
cutting what is alive. It is about
allocating investments in order to achieve improvements
and new achievements so that everyone has a direct
benefit of the public action. It is about removing housing
from its financial and social classifications. It is about opposing to
the principle of housing as a financial product in
order to adapt offer and needs. It is about providing housing
with the generosity of views that has been
missing for 50 years. The unit of urban
measurement is housing– not housing in general,
but one house or one flat. It means a continuous
attention to its inhabitants multiplied 10,000 times, 50,000
times, one million times. Urban planning, it’s a
sequential, multiplicative, and simultaneous
urbanism dedicated to make consistent
the entire existing territory with the essential
rights of its use– home, freedom of mobility,
and access, to write to a remarkable environment
serenity and security. The city is
conceived as a series of to be continued situation
and mobilities– living well, to be well into
your living room, to stay in front of a door,
being close to services, shops, feeling well while walking
through the park, meet people. Any intention of
densification must be linked to the
strategy of relationships and ease and continuity
between the quality of an interior, a common
era, and a public space. Density– to densify
means providing more space without compressing
individual space, to give the ability to
housing and residents to experience plenty
of situations, the ordinary as extraordinary. Freedom, mobility,
porosity, generosity, should form the foundation
of any discussion on densification. To densify carefully, to
extend the existing situation, do not to wasting land, to
involve a separate imposition strategy of proximity case
by case to agglomerate, to expand, and to add. So it’s really about
freedom and inhabiting. And constantly these
questions, to be inside, to live, to inhabit, and
this question of freedom. So Africa was probably
our second school after the School of
Architecture in Boulder, just to do, or to try
to do, with nearly nothing– with nothing,
or nearly nothing. Just what you have
around you, some branches fixed in the sand, some straw
around the branches, the roof, the fence, the roof, a
landscape, the desert, it’s a fantastic
luxury to live there. And we tried to go on with this
image on all of our projects. The idea of luxury,
of simple things, and about also this question of
less is more that can be today also think in the
way of cheap is more. Because today this question
to use the economy in order to do the maximum seems, for
us, a very important challenge. So it is possible in the same
projects to do double space. Because to increase freedom,
to allow more freedom, more possibilities
for a family that has not so much money in order
to give more possibilities and more freedom. This is our challenge, our
goal, on different situations– this idea of flight,
air, to do with what exists, to do it the same. And to create different
conditions, and new conditions, of living. The House Latapie [inaudible]
was talking about. It was 20 years ago. But also, in Mulhouse,
the possibility to keep on this challenge
for social housing, 20 flats in Mulhouse,
and to see how it is possible to try to
work with this minimum, and to adapt to new situations. How it is possible just to
superimpose two systems, two completely different systems. One is just one very efficient
structural system of concrete with columns, ,
beams and floors. On top of it with
a professional auto control greenhouse with all its
equipment for creating climate. So capacity by the
concrete system, and controlling the climate
with the professional greenhouse system. And by the combinations of
the two, the possibility to create flats and
apartments there. With here, again, double
space– double space to say that the program of a
house with two bedrooms, one living room, one
bathroom, and one kitchen, should be not take at
this restricted dimension, but should have some more space,
free space, in order to expand. To expand other possibility,
to invite friends, to have many other
occupations, to give possible some surprises of the life. And to leave people expand their
wishes and their character. So just this system that
allows these two places, and then to see, oh, you
can make a partition of it, giving each of the ground,
each of the upper floor, each of the facade, to all the
apartments in order to produce with the same
budget of flats that should have 80
square meters, flats that is 180 square meters. And that will give these
possibilities of life. Different possibilities
of use, perhaps placing in the winter gardens things
that, as an architect, we would never think
that would be there. But being confident
with the user and the inhabitant
to use this capacity. Always, this relation
between inside and outside, just transparency, just
possibility to filter, to reduce the light if you need. But all the time, to have
the maximum possible. Double space not
only for housing. But housing is everywhere. Housing is here. Housing is in the school. Housing is in the city. Inhabiting is situations to be
well in any place of the city. For us, it is this idea that
today inhabiting becomes the most challenging
objective for architects and urban planners
in order to make the city comfortable
and full of pleasures. For the School of
Architecture in Nant, the question was also the same. In a very nice place
in the center of Nant, to see what system could allow
the highest level of freedom for 1,000 students
and their professors. So to take all the
parcel, all the plots, to occupy all the plot. And then on these plots to
install a system of very, very high capacity, perhaps like an
old industrial building that could have been there on
the harbor or Nant before, but that it is no more here. So a system of a
grid of 11 meter by 11 meter supporting some
floors of a capacity of one ton by square meter. And the first main floor
is at nine meters high, the second one at 16 meter high. And the third, that it is a
roof, is at 23 meters high. And all of them have
this capacity of one ton by square meter. And then a ramp, large
ramp, of eight meters large, like a street, takes
the people, or the cars, or the vehicles from
the ground floor. And takes them to
the nine meters, and then 16 meters, and
then 23 meters, giving axis. The grid is the tool
for the economy, the tool for the efficiency,
the tool for the robustness. Some stairs and elevators, and
the starting of the ramp that develops from ground
to the next levels. And makes a sort of
promenade from the ground floor of the city of Nant
and then to a sort of terrace 24 meters high up. Opening possibilities– all the
floors in the school of Nant make a total edition of 30,000
square meters, when the program is 9,000 square meters. And the budget was about
9,000 square meters. But the idea was to keep on the
budget, to stay in the budget, and to propose these 30,000
square meters of capacity and possibilities
for the school. So a sort of huge space
with huge heights where could be a building
there before in which the school of architecture
could install itself. A skeleton made with
the minimum of concrete, but in the same time with
the maximum of robustness, and the maximum of
heights in order to achieve the possibility
to different programs to install in it. So then inside this
main structure, a secondary structure
that takes its support from each of the
main floors, and that will allow some mezzanine,
some amphitheater it, in order to install the program
of school architecture in this soft of loft with
places for mezzanine, and different occupations
in function of the levels. And then inside the system, to
think of different climates. You have a green
climate that it is a climate of the
program, something that is you have in all
the school other standards with regular temperature. And the blue one is a sort
of intermediate climate between the climate of
outside and the resulting of the climates in the green,
and also the passive energy of the sun that makes
this space totally usable, even if it is not at
the right temperature or the year– and to
propose different capacity in different kind of
space and climate. Then inside the system,
the project develops. The ramp develops,
organizing the connections with all the main situations. The auditorium
opens to the street in order to have this
interaction between inside and outside. The cafeteria occupies
the ground floor. The nine meters volume
gives a possibility for making huge models
for the students, always with this
relation inside outside, trying to open the different
possibilities to have a concert, to have this
auditorium open to the river and the outside for
different presentations, or different sets of elements. Trying to work all the time
with this porosity between what is inside and what is outside. But also giving this
possibility of these kind of little meetings, where one
professor can go in a corner and just have a view of
the river and the city, makes a little speech
with his students. Giving the possibility
to go where the sun is, or to use the space,
additional space, for performance and events. Always, this relation
inside to outside, with sliding doors opening
to a little balcony. And this possibility
of views to be in your studio
working on the models, looking to some friends
on the level below. And then further on, the bridge,
and the river, and the city– transparency, visibility,
porosity, mixing of climates, mixing of possibilities, opening
the freedom to have a piano, or to make nets for rest. And the ramp, climbing, offering
different kind of spaces, opening different panorama
towards the city of Nant. And then 2,000 square
meters free space on top of the school with
the possibility of meetings, dance parties, or
cinema at some moments. So opening the possibilities,
offering this freedom of use. The other space here also
in Dunkirk in this area that you see there so
flat without nothing. Because before there was the
harbor here, a very strong harbor with a lot of energy. And unfortunately, all the
[inaudible] that were here have disappeared except one,
one that you keep for nostalgia. Because to say we have to keep
one as a memory of the workers there. You see how it was before. And all this is left, and
now a sort of tabula rasa, and people trying to
invent a new city. A building for
nostalgia and memory, it was– they call
it the cathedral. Because there they were
repairing boats, big boats inside this building. It is 30 meters high, 30 meters
large, and 80 meters long. And the question here,
it was to fill it with a program for art
center, storage of art pieces and also exhibition
spaces and administration. So the program was to use this
space of 2,000 square meters on the ground floor,
and this height, in order to have several
levels for a program of 10,000 square meters of storage
and exhibition rooms. And for us, it was
strange to consider that the building
was interesting only for its external view. But we had to think
of all it was inside. Because here inside
was the energy. Here inside was a
work of the people. Here inside is the capacity. And for us, it was strange to
imagine a competition where people ask you to fill
this with new architecture, with new floors inside. So instead to work
inside this big halle, we make a double building. We install an exactly
the same building just on the site of the first one. And we put the program on
the new one– so in order to keep the first
one totally empty. With the new one,
transparent one with the storage and
the exhibition rooms. Instead to fill the building to
say, no, there is no nostalgia. There is no memory. The question is ambition. Ambition it is to
double, and to have two times more possibilities. It was more simple to
work outside than inside. It was more economic to
work outside than inside. And it offers two
times more volumes. And it keeps, I think, what
is the most important– this inside space free as it is
with this real memory of what happens inside before. So building double
in the same budge with this careful
attention to economy in order to give more
possibilities and more freedom. So now it’s open. It’s a art center with the use
of the first original building, the cathedral, and new
equipments like the entrance hall and the cafe opening
to the exhibitions room in the new building. A new building that’s
totally different. Because the first
one is quite opaque. This one is totally transparent
and open to see around, and to the harbor around. When One from the
first one, you are surprised by this
huge volume, here you have a system of
stairs and elevators that makes you going
very high in order to have the views and the
panorama all around you. So huge spaces with
the connection of art, different possibilities
to exhibit, with always these views
and balconies to the sea. And here the view on the marsh. Here the view on the harbor. Views that you never had before,
like looking from up to down, to the first big building. Building double seems, for us,
interesting challenge in order to give to the program more
freedom and no restriction. And as a point Anne
was talking about is precision– precision
and delicacy to do with. But it is always connected
with this African lesson that we had to do with
in any circumstances. And when you are just
close was to the sea, when you are in a forest
on a parcel, well, you have plenty of
beautiful pine trees. The question it is to
say, how is this possible? It is possible to inhabit here,
but to keep the site exactly as it is. It means never cutting a tree,
never taking away a root, and using the dune, the sand
dune, with the exact shape as it is, and being extremely
precise to install a house, and to participate
to this context. Even the light–
because normally it should be dark to
go under a house– it is possible to use
the reflection of the sun on the sea the order to have
this reflection coming from down to up, reflecting on
the aluminum of the ceiling. And making this
beautiful light under it. So it is just thinking
very precisely how to mix two systems–
the existing systems of the trees, of the
forest, of the roots that are particularly fragile. And then a steel structure
that could go inside. And that could
give the conditions to install a family here. So we have very, very
precise foundations. We have a systems
of [inaudible] that makes the house quite
high over the sand dune, and that opens the view
over the little bushes that you have in the
direction of the sea. So all the trees
of the black ducts are all there– 50 at the
beginning of the construction, 50 at the end of
the construction. It was clear that if we
had to say, this one, we should cut it, the
challenge is no more here. There is no more excitement
to do the project. No, to keep all of
them, even this one that it is in the passage between
the toilets and the bathroom, and it is a bit too big. It’s OK to do. We have to do with this. And to manage all
the question, how it moves when there
is a wind, how it doesn’t touch the structure. Because it’s so strong that
it could damage the house. And, finally, the main thing
is to install a situation. To install a situation, to
rest there in the shadow close to the trees. Touch the trees in your house. And to have this view
towards the [french]. So to do with the minimum– here
the house was already there. It is like if 80%
is already there with the trees, the sand
dunes, the panorama, the view, the landscape. And as an architect,
just have to add some elements of
steel, some concrete, some transparent
windows, and that’s all, doing with the
minimum, and this very precise, delicate attention
to all what exists. So it’s this kind of
project we are sometimes on today, like this what they
called ecological cluster neighborhood. And here on this parcel,
the question was to say. Or it is possible
to build 500 flats at the limit of
this forest, which is a natural forest in the
city of San Jose, so a forest that was there for all the time. And it’s a sort of
joke, it’s a sort of, we should make this
project on the car park of the supermarkets,
but not on these places. Anyway, sometimes you are part
of these kind of competitions with these sometimes
uncomfortable situations to work on. It was clear that
placing 500 flats there would destroy the site. Because how to protect
the ground, how to protect the soil. So the first element of
research that we have done, it is to search about
the forest, about these different areas,
different qualities, different part of it,
different density of forests. And to see what
kind of site we had. And to see the danger
of building there. Even we find this
whole building, that the client even didn’t
know that he was still there. But we find very interesting
an old office building. And what immediately we say,
we should not demolish it. And we write to the mayor
in order to keep it. And he said, no, it’s too late. Even if it was
delivering some beautiful views on this situation. So the question was to think
of, like in the first project, to see, oh, it was
possible to raise over, to make this building that it is
just on very long [inaudible]. And we have a pass rail at nine
minutes high from the ground. And then the first flat’s three
meters higher at 12 meters high from the ground
on three level. And these stairs coming
from the pedestrian way to distribute the system. So a place where
you could imagine that instead for the
project to take part and to take the
place of the forest, it could be possible to go
in the other direction, how the forest is able to go
back to the city, to take, again, these places that
the city take to her. And to imagine
that the vegetation could grow and extend with
the building in the same time. So we don’t see the [inaudible]
and the stairs nearly. But a minimum impact
on the ground, then the pass rail of distribution
at nine meters high. And then the flats at levels
12, 15, and 18 meters. And then year after year,
this possibility to the trees to recover the situation. And to install the vegetation,
even under the buildings. So we can see here from
four years to 10 years, and then from 10
years to 40 years, how the forest could
take the place again in direction of the city. So the pathways are
only pedestrian. We use this transparency,
and this reflection on the materials. And we try to work a
maximum with the light in order to push the vegetation. And in the same time,
in studying some flats in a fantastic situation, so
here the challenge is this one. It is to propose a
system to propose an– but in the same
time, to propose a participation
for the inhabitants to something that it is just
below where they are leaving. How they can be responsible
for the re-attractivity of a territory, how they
can be responsible in terms of inhabitants to the recovery
of the forest in a urban area. And how they can participate
to this challenge. To do nearly nothing,
like this plaza, the question was, how
it is possible to make an embellishment of the plaza. And the answer,
after two, three, four months of work and
research, was to say, there is nothing to do. And our project
is to do nothing. It’s our project. And, please, you have
to do it like we want. And it has been done like that. Or to do nearly nothing,
like this big Palais Tokyo in Paris, where the structure
was empty because also of a former project
of demolition inside for a former project
that never happened. And then this building
stayed during two or three years in this situation, empty. And to see how it was possible
to make the life again, to make the space free again. And to install a contemporary
art center in it. So to do with a minimum
budget, and to see how we could take an
advantage of the quality, and the extreme strange
character of these spaces in order to fulfill the wishes
of artists and visitors. So nearly nothing, just giving
the minimum for heating, for lighting, leaving
the spaces like they are. Just working on this
solidity in order to repair the building
with a minimum budget. I have a black– it’s OK? It stopped. So I don’t know what happens. Yeah, it’s come back. So to see in this incredible
place, how immediately plenty of artists organized different
art spaces– freedom, again, for visitors. So the Palais Tokyo is
now open since 2002. And each year,
800,000 visitors are coming to explore the building. Our challenge was to say
everything should be public. Every square meter should
be accessible to public. And the Palais Tokyo offers
now 20,000 square meters of art space with dark
spaces, spaces with light, spaces with transparent
roofs, spaces for video. This stairs, that
is a new stairs that we imagined to go very deep
vertically from the entrance. In order for the
artist to choose, because there is so
much space, so much ambiances, to choose precisely
the ambiance that they like. Precision– also for in
this question of addition, sustainability, how we can
consider that sustainability is to make sustainable
what already exists. And this is why we work
on this study called plus. When the French
Minister decided to when there is so many people
without housing in France or around Paris,
decided to demolish these blocks of the ’60s and
’70s, we were really sad. And we work with [inaudible] to
this question, no, keep them. Just add. Add to situations. Instead to demolish,
there’s plenty of spaces. Just try from the inside
to reveal the spaces, and to reveal the possibilities. Extend, add. And from this situation that it
is actually behind the walls, try to think how it
is possible to give another quality, and
another extension, and other possibilities. So it is in that the
way that we transformed to [inaudible] in Paris that was
a building built in the ’60s, and fortunately damaged in
the ’80s with the asbestos panels of beautiful pink and red
with less windows than before. And where we work on extension,
extension by new rooms, and by new winter
gardens, new elevators. In order, instead of
demolishing, to add. And to propose
new possibilities. So instead of that,
to have this view, to have new winter
gardens in addition. And then all this transformation
from inside change, inevitability, the aspect
and the view from outside. People were staying during
the works, all people, and just have this
extension of their flat. In the same principle,
another city close to San Jose in La Chine,
these very characteristic blocks around the
cities in France. And to say, because it’s
is always this question– should we demolish? Or should we keep? So here we have a little tower
with 10 levels and 40 flats. And to see the possibility
to extend, to see how it was possible
from this situation to go to this situation, to have
new bathrooms that were here before, and to bring
them here, to have new balconies in winter garden
and for all the four flats at each level. And then at the
same time to think about density, how
it is possible to add 40 new flats in two wings. And to use this hole in order to
distribute some flats here also with particular entrances here. So then to see how by addition,
instead of demolition, we can change the situations. Densification– in order to
give more place for each. Each has a much bigger flat. The budget is much lower than
the budget of the demolition and reconstruction. And in the same time, small
densification, more population, in order to make possible some
new shops, some new equipment, some new services
on the territory. And in the same
times, this same kind of situations- winter
garden, in order to save energy in a different
way than triple glass, but staying between
two glass, it is better if you can
have some life between. Always, balcony filter is a
possibility for the inhabitant to characterize his climate and
his ambiance by the curtains, by the winter garden
movement– and these views on the landscape,
and the territory. Today perhaps I present you
with this project very quickly. But also it works
because we work on this element, this
building, this building, and this little building. It is 530 flats all occupied. There is 1% or 2%
of unoccupancy. And it is to say
instead of demolition, how it is possible to
expand the situation. So it’s a sort of wall
in the city of Bordeaux that was the tests and
experiments of decoration in the ’80s that doesn’t
really change the life. With some people that tried
to live and to do their best inside, even if the spaces are
small, the living room very small, and the view are nice. But this difficulty to have
a space, to have freedom, to develop their
wishes, to develop their wishes of decoration. But all of this is
extremely charming. All of this is– why
should we take this away? Why should we demolish this? And as in the first
project with the trees, it is exactly to have
the same attitude to say, we have to be so careful
with all these posters, with all these furnitures, with
all these little boards here, and even make the
transformation. So from this situation, to
increase to this situation. From this window, to
give this possibility. From this kitchen, to
open to go outside. And then from this
situation for each flat, to give this possibility. Though then very
quickly the story– here you see the first
elements of foundations. Then the elements are
coming, already prefabricated with all the elements
for the rails, for the balcony
also already there. And then the change
progressively. Eight elements by day, so
these can go quite fast. So a lot of work still,
but already this is done. But we have already here, and
to change this very flat facade in order to give this
extension to outside to extend the program. To say is it’s not only a
living room, bedrooms, bathroom. No, it’s also additional
space, like a garden. So at the end, the
challenge it is that we should have no more flats. We should have only
villa everywhere. So you can see here, the
system and the process with these prefabricated
elements that have their definitive balcony. Then they open
under the windows. They cut under the windows. You see here. And then they place the new
windows in this situation. Then we have also
some [inaudible] to protect so that
people can stay inside. And we have this protection in
order to avoid from pollution. With the elements
to show the walls, take them away, then open again. Place the window, and
open to the winter garden. The kitchen, and then
the light is different. The way of moving inside your
flat is totally different. You have more freedom. And these big winter gardens
that are just finished, and that people start to
install their furniture inside. So it was like that. And it is like this. So this question of
minimum to do the maximum to do with– so for
all the buildings also, I go very fastly,
but new buildings with the same character,
transparency, air, light, sun, this possibility for the
inhabitant to decide by himself he wants to take
the curtains or not. To open, or to leave like it is. In Mulhouse, another
project, social housing with this same
generosity of space, with this same attention
and careful attention to the economy, the
budget, with the challenge of generosity of space. Very quickly, I am very long
perhaps, but very quickly to finish. And to give, perhaps, a
question on, and what else? What else it is about,
probably something that in some special
conditions that could be important for projects. A sort of, we could
say, decoration. We could say something
else, an inspiration. Here it is in Vienna. And there was a question
to make a cafe here, a cafe restaurant here inside
these military building. And here this question was
just to find some tiles coming from Istanbul. And to install them. And to create this relation
between Vienna and Istanbul in order to create
this special view. So here it is just one thing,
to do nearly nothing except to place these tiles
on the ceilings, and creating this reflection. Or in Bordeaux, it is just
a very university Buildings for management, so nothing
really funny inside. So we would also
want to add something on each facade on
the five levels at each balcony to
create a sort of garden or rose trees– 650 climbing
rose trees with different names all around this facade to
create a vertical garden full of flowers. Or sometimes, like
this last competition in Guangzhou for the Museum
of the City of Guangzhou, the original museum is like
this, systems of platforms. And the reference to
the symbolic foundation of the city of
Guangzhou, five goats that came when the
city was a desert. And then when the
goats came, they sent some seeds everywhere. And the city become
extremely luxurious. So a new plan to make a project
of museum inside this context with this pagoda and
this beautiful garden in this context of
strange buildings. On this parcel here, to
work on this situation. And there also to
install, like in Nant, a very simple and efficient
building, a sort of reference to the National Gallery of
Mies van der Rohe in Berlin, a sort of stratification
of levels up to 40 meters high with keeping the
forest and the pagoda, installing the building
totally on the back in order to keep the trees free. Offering different
views to the space, and also thinking that something
should be inside the building, like this reference to
the Statue of Liberty in the [inaudible]
in Paris, to say that today the statue
should not be on top, but should be inside. And making the combination
of these two systems– the extremely clear and
poor architecture of layers, plus this figure inside
that inhabits the building. These five goats,
symbolic, coming inside. There is not a
building that refers to goats or to a special shape. No, it’s a very, very
clear building referencing to modern architecture,
plus a statue inside, a statue that you can touch, a
statue that you can go inside, a statute that will define
different partitions of rooms, of spaces, inside
at different levels. And that will separate
a different function like a giant inhabitant
up to the roof, where just the head appears. And the last project, actually,
in Dakar, the reference to modern architecture. Because we really believe
in modern architecture. We really believe in modernity. We really believe
in this architecture made in the ’50s, ’60s
in Dakar, Algiers, Buenos Aires, made of
generosity, large balconies that we can see here. Here in this place
near the market, a project of hotel
of 15 levels where you can see some virtual
images of the entrance hall, the restaurant
the swimming pool, the rooms, and now the
construction with the views, and the city on the sea. It’s just now in construction. And should be open in
ten months, hopefully. So we have shown everything,
perhaps too many things, probably, sorry. But it is how we start from
this little hut in Africa, and how we try to keep
the way and the direction with the same challenges,
with the same ambition, and we try with the
same generosity. Thank you. [applause] Thank you, thank you. Well, we have some minutes that
we can use for some questions. And let me begin with a resume. And I have taken note of
the words that both of you made more emphasis. And it’s to freedom of use,
kindness, case by case, never demolition, generosity,
living well, luxury and simple things,
cheap is more, capacity, concrete, control
climate with the winter garden, housing is everywhere, to
do with and with a minimum, densification,
economy of budget, and we believe me in
modernist architecture. It’s a kind of resume. I think it’s very consistent
whether you have– I mean, from the very
beginning, it’s obvious that one of the things that
all of us admire in your career is the attitude, the
integrity, and the consistency, and a long time. And I think that the lecture
has been, in this sense, very impressive. But said that, I just want
to ask a couple of things. I mean, I would
just refer to two. One is, why only at
the end of the lecture and almost with
excuses, you mentioned some kind of aesthetic
value in your work with the tiles in Vienna, the
beautiful cafeteria in Vienna? And I think that there’s a
kind of constant aesthetic in your work that
is really important, it’s one of the most
important ingredients of your, let’s say,
formula, or your attitude. And so I’m just wondering,
how do you deal with the fact that you have– I mean,
even if you don’t like it, you can be described in
terms of a style or attitude, if you prefer attitude? But it’s almost the
same thing for me. And the other thing
is very practical. Is one thing that is
impressive in all the slides that have this kind of perimeter
rings of balconies and winter gardens is the width
of the winter garden. I cannot measure, but it’s
around four meters or something like that. And how have you come to
the conclusion that this– because it’s almost in every
project or residential project. How have you come
to the conclusion that this is the
right dimension? Yeah, these two things. And then you have to use
the opportunity to ask. I will start with
the second question. It makes me time to
think to the first one. In fact, for the
first project we did, because we were working
on prefabricated elements, we were thinking that we
could bring the module on a track totally built. It’s why the first project was
with a module of three meters. But, finally, it was really
a view of the spirits that we could bring a module. Because it was not very clever. Because we were bringing
a lot of empty space. And it was expensive. So with the
contractor, finally we decided to bring only the floors
with the hand rails, years and then to build the
columns on the site. Finally for the
second project, we decided that this three meters
were not any more relevant. Because it was not based on
the limit given by the tracks to bring three meters element. So for the other projects,
and especially in Bordeaux– because three meters
was a little small. Because we had two meters in
the winter garden, and one meter balcony. And it was not generous enough. And we decided to
add another meter for the project in Bordeaux. So the experience was
positive in that way. And for the first
question, I think that we don’t have any
problems with aesthetics. Aesthetics is part
of the project. And we know that at the
end, we produce aesthetic. And we work precisely. We work with care
about the way how construction is done, about
the how materials are placed. But the question is
that aesthetic is not the preliminary of the project. It’s much more a good result
of a lot of intentions that, as Jean-Philippe
explained, start from the quality
of the interior space and the relationships
that we introduce from inside to outside. And the outside is
as far as we see. it’s the reason why the winter
gardens and the balconies are also very interesting,
and always turning around. Because we want to
continue as far as possible the possibility of– there
was something a space after, one after one. And it’s one of the qualities
of the house on the ground, to have more possibilities
and you are on floor. And the last
project, in fact, we liked very much this project. And we are very interested
in this project. And the question of ornament
is not, for us, a problem. Because the force, it’s
part of architecture. And sometimes some
places, they don’t need more than a little layer
of poetry, of sensitivity, like flowers, or like tiles. And for us, it’s not different
as keeping trees in the forest, or extending. It’s just the question
of, when you start a project to have intentions. And to look carefully
to situation. And to find the right idea. For the School of
Architecture of Nant, for example, we don’t
need rose trees. Because we think the
architectural students, they could organize festivals. They could organize films on
the roof, et cetera, et cetera, and invite plenty of friends. And we had the feeling that
in the School of Management in Bordeaux, it would
not be like that. So it’s precisely this. And for housing,
the life of people is much better than flowers. And in Palais Tokyo, the
artists and the art pieces would be much better than any
decoration, or any finishing by the architect. So some projects have
this question important. Some others, it is just
to think that the– because we really
believe in aesthetics. It’s for us, one of the
main things of architecture. It’s about giving
some emotion, giving some sensible situations for
the people inside or outside. So it’s extremely important. But we have just
the feeling that is the result of the process. If for the projects, the
thinking, the participation, the decoration of the people,
the generosity, the ambition, keeps at its maximum, the
aesthetics, the beauty, should be there at the end. And we believe in that. Now we hope it works. Hello, thanks for the talk. I really enjoy your
housing, social housing, with this notion of
addition, and balconies, on the existing structure. I want to sort of project that
into 50 years, for example. And let’s say 50 years
down the road, they say, this is not enough. Now we need– this
is not good enough. So then would you say
that then the next step is another layer of addition. So you add another layer
of balconies, or whatever it might be to the existing
new layer of that existing building? In other words, when is
addition, or generosity, at a certain point not adding
actually anything at all, like for practical
reasons or conceptually? We think, actually, that
this building, there is a sort of statement
status of incompleteness. You can see one
beautiful building of this period of the ’60s
on the city of Nice opening to the ocean with
very large balconies. It works very well. And some buildings in the
’60s around the suburbs of the cities have been
done at the minimum. The structure is the same. And the topology is the same. Except that here,
you have no balcony. On the other ones, you
have very large windows and large balconies. Here, you have small
windows and the balcony. So I think the question it
is, not to extend, and extend, and extend. It is just to place
some existing building to the situations where they
should have at the beginning, as the others. It’s why this reference
to the modern movement, for us, is important, referring
to Algiers, to Buenos Aires, to Casablanca, to Dakar. It is this idea
that when you are in a block, when you
are in a slab like that, your life doesn’t finish. It’s just limited by the
window looking to the void. No, you should make
it like a villa. We are very impressed by the
case study program here in US, and all our references looking
to Pierre Koenig, this sort of simplicity, generosity,
but extreme delicacy of the building. So the idea how it is
possible to imagine this case study at all the
levels of the building. So here, like a villa of
Pierre Koenig, it has a garden. Or it has a panorama. Or it has a landscape around. But when you are at the tenth
level, or the 15th level, you have the void. So then you should have this
possibility of extension like a garden. So there is no necessity to
extend two or three times. But one time, to make it at
the maximum of generosity, and with minimum balconies. To give this idea of
generosity is important. But the city is always moving. I like this idea that
the city change, moves, but more by additions
than by subtraction. So to do each time with the
capacity of the existing, to extend it to, perhaps, to
have extensions on the ground floor, to have new
equipments, new shops, perhaps it will happen in
10 years, or in 20 years, on the ground floor
of these buildings. We hope so. I think that, again,
it’s not systematic. It’s the question of
looking at the situation. And studying carefully. And see what is
the best solution? Of course, if we had to
renovate The Lake Shore Drive, we wouldn’t do any addition. Because the quality of
housing was already done. And it’s done for a long time. So it’s just– again, it’s not a
question of to develop systems, but to evaluate the
situation case by case. Yes? I love the work. Thank you for your presentation. I have an infrastructure
question for you. I’m interested in the line
that you draw between landscape and your work, or
architecture and your work, that line that allows you
to go forward or step back. When it comes to
infrastructure, let’s say in the public
housing, the bathrooms the kitchens, the
electricity, how does that– what is your
strategy toward generosity in quality of life when it comes
to that infrastructure that might not necessarily be enough? I don’t understand
really– can you? Yeah, when you have
the infrastructure in the housing
projects– the bathrooms and the kitchens that
might be as outdated as the buildings
themselves, the reason that you’ve come
to the building is to expand, improve
the quality of life. But you’ve left that
behind you when you add. So I’m kind of interested what’s
your strategy toward that? It’s a very real– Perhaps I don’t talk about that. But in the same time we
make these extensions, it’s clear that there is a part
inside that we– for example, these big slabs, we
rebuilt the bathrooms with the no equipments
of the bathroom. And we do, again, all the
electricity of the systems. And before there was one very
poor elevator distributing all the two levels,
each two levels. And the people, they
were obliged to– and now we add a
new elevator that distributes all the levels. And so we have the
old one that we keep. And we make stop
at all the levels. So you have two elevators
when there was only one. So it means that in the same
times you makes this extension, you work with the existing
for new electricity and for new bathrooms. But in the same time,
sometimes some clients could have the wish
to make everything white inside– new paint,
new ceilings, et cetera. And when you show these
manges, it was clear for us that what people have
done during 10 years, 20 years with their poster,
with their decoration, with their furniture has
to be precisely, carefully take care with. And this is much better
than white paint. So it is these kind
of attitudes that we try to have in this situation. But you are right. It’s necessary to
have new electricity. And to repair the bath
tubes, the shower, the elements like that. For example, in the project with
[inaudible], the 530 dwellings, the cost of extension is 42,000
Euros, more or less US dollars now, more or less. And in this cost,
less than half is spent for the extension
and the new facade. And 25,000 for the interior
refurbishment, as well as new elevators, and security
systems, and so on. Last question? Yeah, well, two last questions. OK, I really admired
the park where your project was to do nothing. And you went a
bit quick on that. Maybe because there’s not
a lot to say about it. But I was wondering, how does an
architect decide to do nothing? Because I loved it. But what do you
think about, in order to say, we’re doing nothing? I think it’s a result
of a long work. Because for this
square in Bordeaux, it was a project
organized by city. And they invited five
architects to work on seven different squares. And the question was very clear. Because it talked
about embellishment of the city, and
embellishment of the square. And they did a first
example in the city where they renovated everything. They changed all the floors
to make new pavements. They changes all the
benches, all the lamps, to make a new design. And the cost was much expensive. And, finally, it was
not changing so much. So when we had to work on the
square, we have been there. And the first intuition
was a very nice intuition. We were charmed by the quality
of what we– it was simple. It was not– there were
some things to change, but so little. And very fast was this
intuition that if we were talking about
embellishment, that was already beautiful. But we had to also
develop arguments. And we were during four months,
we went there sometimes. We discussed with people. And we could see
how it was working. And finally, at the end,
we had the question, how to embellish a square,
we answered, the place, the square is already beautiful. And there is nothing to do,
except a very few maintenance that was necessary here. But we say that
this was a project. It was not a non-response. it was a project. And then we defended that. Because they [inaudible]. Of course, but,
OK, don’t you want to make– we don’t understand. They say, we don’t
understand why you don’t want– nobody’s
architects are like to change the benches, to design benches. But finally, here it
was not necessary. And we had to defend
this position. But they accepted it. And the question, we
are paid for that. This one, yes. It’s important to understand
that the work of an architect is not only to build. It’s first to
consider a question, to consider a situation. And then to consider the
complexity of a situation. And then to bring a reply. Sometimes it’s to build a lot. Sometimes it’s to
build a little. Sometimes it’s to do nothing. Thanks, so my question’s
similar to [inaudible], I guess. But you said earlier
that when you responded that the
aesthetic never comes first. But then I was
wondering, there’s certain sensibilities
that continue throughout all the projects. And I would say that they’re
more formal, or figurative. For instance, it’s
sort of a doubling, or the brutal juxtaposition
of two different systems that I think you
amplify consistently in a way that has
little to do with some of the other issues you talked
about in budget, et cetera. For instance, in
[inaudible] where the corridor is much
smaller to emphasize the placement of the tree. Or in some of even the
earlier, the Latapie House with the double facade
that can be completely closed on the street or completely
open, or even in your earliest project I know, where the
box inside– for the house, where the box inside
the greenhouse above is rotated
to kind of amplify. So I guess that’s
a current I see. And I wonder if you could
speak more about that, or how this is a
sort of a sensibility there that maybe you could
call a style or an aesthetic as well. I think in a way,
it’s very simple. Because I think it’s very human. And everybody sings to that. You feel better when you have
more space, when you are not obliged to be constrained by
the space, by the furniture. And the standards nowadays,
it’s just impossible. How can you imagine to
live with a family– I know that here the
situation is different. But in Europe, the standards of
housing are very, very small. And now with the crisis,
it’s a good opportunity for the private developers
to build less for more. And now because of many
regulation for insulation, for disabled access, everything
is– some rooms are increased. And some are reduced. So how can you imagine
that the family can live in a relaxed way
when you have a living room of 22 square meters? A bedroom has nine to 12
square meters, no possibility to go outside? So, for us, it’s very
important to first to give this easiness of
space, a generosity of space, like in the countryside. You have no limit. And more space give a very
good feeling of escape. And it’s very
important for people to have this feeling of escape. And we also convinced
that, as we said before, that any project
of densification would fail if you don’t think
that first you have to increase your individual space. Because you cannot base a
sustainable city if you impose compression to the
life of people. So for us, it’s very
important to think that way. Well, let me conclude
just with a comment about your aesthetics. I think that this image
is very clear of what Philippe said at
the end, the love for modernist architecture. But at the same time, we
have seen along the slides a kind of love for
[inaudible], things as they are almost in a
state of ruin in many cases. I mean, leaving them like,
let’s say, not decorated ruins, but just undecorated
ruins that perform well. And there is a kind
of mix of aesthetics in this respect for the
journey holiday poster, and the love for this
kind of simplicity, and compositional
simplicity, I would say. So I think that this is
a very special thing. Because it’s very
difficult to put together these two aesthetics. And we have inherited
a kind of prism in the aesthetics
of modernism that now is kind of infected by
life, I mean, real life. And I think this is something
that I– mostly all of us– appreciate a lot in your work. I think it’s just about freedom. What you say, it’s about– as
architects, we try to be free. We want freedom. We want freedom
from urban planners. We want freedom. Because this freedom, we can
try to give them to inhabitants. But this question what
you say about aesthetics, it’s also to keep free in the
mind about the different way you can work. Let’s give freedom
to all of them. Thank you so much. Thank you. [applause]

4 thoughts on “Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal, “Freedom of Use”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *