The spaces we live in can create possibilities for healthy and productive lifestyles. By increasing our freedom to move and grow, architects have the tools to create a vital escape, beyond the functional, for occupants. “Designing architecture on this notion of “inhabiting” means constructing space from the inside, and not from the outside," an art that has been perfected by two French architects Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal.
Lacaton & Vassal are the principals of the architectural firm they established jointly in 1987. With designs that strike a skillful balance between daylight quality, energy consumption and cost-efficiency, Lacaton & Vassal combine humanistic and aesthetic dimensions to create sustainable and inspiring solutions. Their projects are run on the principle that 90% of what is required for a project is already available on site.
The duo is responsible for major projects such as the refurbishment of Palais de Tokyo in Paris, School of Architecture in Nantes, France, the Café of the Architektur Zentrum in Vienna, the "Cité Manifeste" in Mulhouse, Social housing and student housing in Paris, and the transformation of modern social housing blocks, as 530 dwellings in Bordeaux (with Druot and Hutin).
Revitalizing social housing with daylight
Light is essential for plants, animals and people, but buildings can also benefit from copious amounts of daylight. In many inner-city neighbourhoods, modest changes that increase access to daylight can revive a tired building with newfound energy and life, especially within social housing complexes.
Lacaton & Vassal channel inspirations from simple, sustainable and practical designs such as greenhouses which allow them to control aspects of the indoor climate in a low-tech manner while also increasing the comfort of the occupant. Removing walls and adding transparent facades are tell-tale signs of Lacaton & Vassal’s architecture as they strive to provide ventilation and daylight for the building’s occupants.
“Daylight is something very important in buildings, because daylight includes the possibility of using the sun’s rays for comfort and of allowing views outside. If you use daylight, you need less artificial light,” said Anne Lacaton in an interview with D/A Magazine.
“It never pays to demolish”
By increasing the presence of daylight in their buildings, and forming a sense of openness, the architects are creating homes that offer more living space and a higher quality of life while providing opportunities for fading communities to thrive.
In many cases, buildings featuring their designs were marked for demolition, but tearing down the fabric of a community and rebuilding often isn’t the most efficient or sustainable option.