Social Housing Architecture Apostles: Why Nix It When You Can Fix It?

exterior view of large high rise apartment building in Bordeaux
le grand parc photo by victortsu is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 Deed
Architects Jean-Philippe Vassal and Anne Lacaton were selected to design a renovation for this apartment building, which is part of Cité du Grand Parc, a public housing development in Bordeaux, France.

Do you remember Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal, who in 2021 won what’s considered to be the ‘Nobel Prize For Architecture’ — the 2021 Pritzker Prize1? The husband and wife pair has recently won another prestigious architectural prize — the 2023 Soane Medal.

That honour has given The Guardian reason to explore in detail an approach to housing design philosophy that particularly supports the preservation of housing in a time of worldwide housing crisis.

Lacaton and Vassal’s philosophy and work is a refreshing counter to a drumbeat of self-serving, profit-focused knock-it-down necessity trumpeted by the building industry. It offers hope that a human right to adequate housing can be expanded upon a foundation of existing homes that have no viable reason to be ‘erased and redrawn’ over and over at literally endless expense.

Read a lengthy interview with this imaginative pair of French architects in The Guardian: Architects Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal on the joy of reusing buildings rather than knocking them down


  1. Try: Public Housing, “Reverence For Pre-Existing Structures” Captures Architecture’s Top Prize