About a week ago, Cornell in Rome had the privilege of receiving and learning from Lacaton and Vassal, two pioneers in their field, and their extensive dossier of architectural work. At 6 o clock on the dot, the thirty of us architecture students assembled in the lecture hall to listen to the two partner architects. Cornell in Rome takes its lectures very seriously, with a camera crew, which usually consists of two students and a tripod, and a journalist to take notes—that’s me. Often times, I don’t go about these lectures with a particularly high level of enthusiasm, as they occur shortly after classes end, and I’m almost definitely exhausted both mentally and physically. Lacaton and Vassal, however, did not beat around the bush when it came to conquering my attention and interest.
Lacaton and Vassal is a small architecture firm based in Paris, France that is very prevalent in the design scene in France with a plethora of built projects around the country and numerous references in reputable publications such as A+U and Croquis. Their fame and recognition in Europe is not unwarranted, as their projects tend to push the boundaries of what it means to truly solve a design problem. Most if not all of their solutions are exceptionally efficient and cut out thousands of dollars in demolition and development. For instance, their project in Bordeaux France for a public housing block saw a significant expansion to cramped apartments without much demolition whatsoever. Instead, they designed a façade of winter gardens that hangs off the side of the building, giving every unit a semi interior, exterior salon. The whole thing saves thousands and created a beautiful, translucent greenhouse like loggia. Many of their finished projects look like overgrown greenhouses, but in the most beautiful and understated way.
My favorite project they presented was their work for the Communauté Urbaine de Dunkerque in Dunkerque, France. A reception for the arts, the building is the doppelganger of a preexisting ship warehouse. It attaches to it quite literally at the hip. Translucent, you can see the movement within especially at night. They made an entire additional building to preserve the original vacuous space of the warehouse. The best part for me is the magnificent view at the top of this gigantic edifice.
Please please please go check out their work. You’ll fall in love. They are French after all.