The choice of Lacaton & Vassal to receive the 2021 Pritzker Prize was, above all, emblematic. Under the mantra “never demolish, never remove or replace, always add, transform and reuse”, the French duo built a career focused on renovating buildings, providing them with spatial quality, efficiency and new programs. Their approach contrasts with most of the architecture we are used to honoring: iconic, imposing and grandiose works. It also contrasts with the notion of the tabula rasa, of building and rebuilding from scratch, so well represented in Le Corbusier’s Ville Radieuse, and which has fascinated architects and urban planners ever since.
Whether because of the sustainability demands currently in vogue, or simply because there are already enough buildings around the world, the task of rehabilitating spaces and buildings has been seen as an important driver of change. The focus is generally to center efforts on interior spaces, paying special attention to the environmental quality and comfort of the inhabitants, in addition to adapting the uses to contemporary demands. The main question revolves around how to update (and even automate) the buildings of the past to adapt to new needs for efficiency, sustainability and well-being.