BDA Grand Prize to Lacaton Vassal

John Hill
28. October 2020
Transformation of 530 Dwellings - Grand Parc Bordeaux, designed in part by Lacaton & Vassal, won the 2019 EU Mies Award. (Photo: Philippe Ruault)

French architects Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal are the 2020 recipients of the BDA Grand Prize that is given out every three years by the Association of German Architects (BDA).

The announcement was made a week ago by BDA President Susanne Wartzeck, with the award decided by an independent jury chaired by Wartzeck and made up of journalist Till Briegleb, architect Katja Knaus, ETH professor Philip Ursprung, and architect Max Wasserkampf.

Given out every three years since 1964, the BDA Grand Prize (Großen BDA-Preis) honors the significant achievements or exceptional careers of architects and urban planners, both in Germany and abroad. The jury is recognizing Lacaton and Vassal this year for their extensive and innovative built work, but also for their design attitude that is significantly different than other architects: "Never demolish, never remove or replace, always add, transform, and reuse!"

That much-repeated phrase dates back to the Parisian duo's response (with Frédéric Druot) to a 2004 competition for replacing a 1960s housing block on the city's periphery; rather than tear down the buildings, they proposed renovating them and adding perimeter rooms behind new glass walls. A similar project completed in Bordeaux in 2016 garnered them the 2019 EU Mies Award.

Initially the prize was given to German architects, but this century it is open to architects living and practicing beyond the country's borders. Hans Scharoun received the inaugural BDA Grand Prize and other recipients include Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Egon Eiermann, Günter Behnisch, Oswald Mathias Ungers, and Axel Schultes. The prize going to Lacaton and Vassal reflects its new international criteria, which also led to Swiss architect Peter Zumthor receiving the most recent prize, in 2017.

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