The vehement reaction against 1960s modernist housing has spurred several generations of inventive critiques. Since 1989 and the fall of Communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe, the rehabilitation of vast tracts of such housing has become a key political, ecological, and architectural concern. At Bois-le-Prêtre, formerly a banal modernist housing slab, a new glass shell of balconies completely envelops the existing building, breaking the monotony of the facade and improving the building's insulation. This addition has increased apartment footprints by roughly fifteen percent and provided more natural light and better views. In addition, the floor plans of individual apartments were modified during the redesign and customized to individual needs.
The work was done in two parallel phases: as the prefabricated, modular facade structure took shape, the apartment interiors were modified and new openings created in the old exterior walls. Residents could stay in their homes or move into one of eight spare apartments in the building during construction. In a world of diminishing resources, this organic model of transformation and adaptive reuse is ingenious and exemplary.
Gallery label from Born out of Necessity, March 2, 2012–January 28, 2013.
In 2005, Druot, Lacaton, and Vassal won a government competition to remodel a 1961 public housing high-rise on the ring road that circles Paris. The original modernist prefabricated concrete tower had various shortcomings and was considered undesirable. After interviews with residents, the architects focused on expanding the living spaces and increasing natural light to improve conditions in each apartment. Their design adds a new exterior structure—a transparent glass shell of balconies that completely envelops the existing building, breaking up the monotony of the facade and providing much-needed insulation. It has made the radical reconfiguration of the apartments’ interiors possible; the addition of winter gardens has increased apartment footprints by roughly fifteen percent and provides both natural light and views. With their innovative and imaginative solution, the architects exemplify socially progressive retrofitting in a world of diminishing resources.
Gallery label from 9 + 1 Ways of Being Political: 50 Years of Political Stances in Architecture and Urban Design, September 12, 2012–March 25, 2013.