The 2021 Pritzker Prize was just awarded to French architects Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal. One of the most notable aspects of their work is their appreciation for and reuse of existing structures, which, as many of you will know, is far more sustainable than building new. A good example of this approach is their Grand Parc project in Bordeaux, where they transformed three existing tower blocks and 530 dwellings.
What’s fascinating about this project is how they added balconies and winter gardens to structures that previously didn’t have any. I also like how there are two layers of outdoors spaces. There’s the more enclosed winter garden portion and then there’s an open air balcony-type component, which also happens to be a more public-facing space where you might actually run into some of your neighbors.
If you can’t see the video above, click here. Once you’ve had a chance to watch the video, I would be curious to know: Are these spaces that you would like to live in?
Of course we would like to live in a space like that, but the reality is that apartment/condo buildings from the 80’s onwards could not be retrofitted with such generous sunrooms/balconies as it is possible with the earlier generation buildings. They had wide frontages and a narrow cross-section where every room is on the exterior perimeter, which allows the expansive sunrooms as in the Bordeaux project. Current generation of this type are all deep cross-section with each room stacked behind the other with only a narrow frontage; effectively rotating the old apartment model 90 degrees. You would be lucky to be able to create sunrooms/balconies a quarter the size of the ones in Bordeaux. As an aside, even modest apartments from the 60’s and 70’s are far more livable than those produced today.
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