Lacaton & Vassal's revamp of a 1960s housing block has earned the French architects the 2019 EU Prize for Contemporary Architecture, also known as the Mies van der Rohe Award, which biannually recognizes the best example of European architecture completed in the past two years.
For the winning project, Grand Parc Bordeux, the Paris-based firm used their pioneering housing strategies to take cramped and dim apartments and open them up to light and air in order to improve the quality of life of those living there. Transforming three blocks of 530 homes, the architects added architectural features such as winter gardens and balconies. By relying on prefabricated elements and catalogue products such as sliding doors, they were able to intervene while keeping costs low, ensuring that no rent increases were necessary, and that residents could remain in their homes during the work.
Known for their delicate interventions, the duo have long championed the rehabilitation of post-war housing estates across France—an effort best encapsulated by their dictum: “Never demolish, never remove or replace, always add, transform, and reuse!"
The jury, chaired by Dorte Mandrup, commended the practice for this sensitivity and their ability to use minimum means to achieve a maximum effect. "The ensemble becomes an optimistic opportunity for social housing and modernity," they wrote, adding that "the architects [showed] a very high acknowledgement of who and what they are working with."
In addition, the European Commission and the Mies van der Rohe Foundation also announced the winner of the 2019 Emerging Architecture Prize. This year, the jury commended the Toulouse studio BAST for their extension of a small village school. The jury stated that they were drawn by the extremely precise implementation and design decisions which make the refectory a remarkable project. "The work was done with extreme humbleness," they added.
The winners will be celebrated at the EU Mies Award Day on May 7 in Barcelona. The event will include the opening of the "EU Mies Award 2019 exhibition" that will show models, texts, videos, sketches and drawings of the 40 shortlisted works and a summary of all 383 nominees, the presentation of the EU Mies Award 2019 catalogue and the app; and the "EU Mies Talks" on ‘Architecture for the Community’ and ‘Contemporary architecture and heritage’.
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