Paris, France
Frédéric Druot, Anne Lacaton, and Jean Philippe Vassal
  • Overview

    The midcentury modernist housing development has long been the subject of criticism. In particular, high-rise apartment blocks, generally clustered closely together and housing low-income residents, have been characterized as anonymous, isolating, monofunctional containers, and in an effort to ameliorate social problems among the residents many have been torn down. Frédéric Druot, Anne Lacaton, and Jean Philippe Vassal are among the increasing number of architects who reject calls for the demolition of modernist housing projects. Their research demonstrates that renovating these structures rather than rebuilding from scratch can entail significant cost savings and is beneficial in allowing residents to stay in their apartments. In 2005 the architects won a government competition to remodel a public-housing high-rise on the boulevard Périphérique, the highway that circles the city of Paris.

    Based on previous research and their interviews with building residents, the architects focused on expanding spaces and increasing natural light to improve living conditions in each apartment. Their design calls for the addition of a new exterior structure—a glass shell of balconies that completely envelops the existing building, breaking up the monotony of the facade and providing the building’s insulation—as well as a series of individualized floor plans for the interiors, increased common space, and a more accessible building overall. The work is being done in two parallel phases: as the prefabricated, modular facade structure takes shape, the apartment interiors are modified and new openings created in the old exterior walls. Further, the architects are proceeding with the work in such a way that residents can stay in their homes or move within the building into one of eight spare apartments during construction. By adapting an existing structure to the present-day needs of its users, Druot, Lacaton, and Vassal are giving new life to a problematic and oft-criticized housing type, with implications that reach far beyond Paris.

  • Architect

    Anne Lacaton and Jean Philippe Vassal both graduated from École d’Architecture in Bordeaux in 1980. Lacaton was awarded a Master’s in Urbanism there in 1984. Jean Philippe Vassal worked from 1980 to 1985 as an architect and urbanist in Niger. Together, they opened the office Lacaton&Vassal in 1988. Their work develops the idea of generous spaces, the principle of double space for "program+appropriation," radically increasing the usual standard of social housing or public programs, and the economy to build more. They have completed several private houses in France, such as House Latapie in Bordeaux and House in the Trees on the Arcachon Bay; a social housing program of fourteen apartments in Mulhouse; and cafés for the Architektur Zentrum in Vienna; the Palais de Tokyo Site for contemporary creation in Paris; a management school in Bordeaux; an exhibition hall in Paris; a winery in the Corbières; and recently the architecture school in Nantes.

    Currently they work on projects for social housing in St. Nazaire, Paris; the Contemporary Art Collection of the North region (FRAC) in Dunkerque; and the extension of the Palais de Tokyo in Paris.

    Together with Frédéric Druot they did the study PLUS, a case study on the future of large-scale housing developments in France and the transformation of a high-rise building of social housing apartments in Paris, currently under construction.

    Frédéric Druot received his architecture degree from the École d’Architecture in Bordeaux in 1984. He founded his own studio, l’Épinard Bleu, in 1987, and in 1991 he founded Frédéric Druot Architecture. His work focuses on cost-effectiveness research and the transformation of existing buildings.

  • Audio
  • Credits
    • Design team: Frédéric Druot, Anne Lacaton, Jean Philippe Vassal (architects); Adis Tatarévic, Miho Nagashima, Florian de Pous, Mario Bonilla, Maria de Oliveira, David Pradel, Caroline Stahl (collaborators)
    • Engineers: Inex (systems engineers); VP & Green (structural engineers)
    • Consultants: E.2.I (cost consultant); Jourdan (acoustics); Vulcanéo (fire security consultant)
    • Construction: Batscop (construction coordinators)
    • Client: Paris Habitat