The Art of the Refurbishment

French architectural studio, Lacaton & Vassal made their mark on the architectural community with their slogan ‘never demolish’. Their style becoming synonymous with careful and clever refurbishments.

They left their ego behind and approached projects in a way that prioritised the best interests of the communities they engaged with. One great example of this was when they were commissioned to improve the Place Léon Aucoc in Bordeaux in the late 90s. Contrary to expectations, they decided to leave it as is, allocating additional funds for regular maintenance and the addition of some new gravel.

This kind of attitude is a major departure from what we typically expect from architects, especially those considered ‘starchitects’.

When the pair won the Pritzker Prize in 2021, it signified an interesting shift in what kind of architecture we valued. No longer was it always about the brand new building, built for the sake of it. Suddenly, Lacaton and Vassal’s honest and resourceful (mostly refurbishment) projects, each grounded in what’s truly best for the inhabitants and environment, were the most exciting things in architecture.

“Construction is fiercely carbon intensive so whatever can be saved should be” – Lacaton and Vassal

We can only hope that more architects can embrace this style that’s been popularised by Lacaton and Vassal over their decades of practice, a style that embraces raw materiality, standardization and community.