Housing Transformation Wins 2019 EU Mies Award

John Hill
10. April 2019
Photo: Philippe Ruault

The European Commission and Fundació Mies van der Rohe have announced that Transformation of 530 Dwellings - Grand Parc Bordeaux has won the the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award 2019.

The project, designed by Lacaton & Vassal architectes with Frédéric Druot Architecture and Christophe Hutin Architecture, is the renovation of three large apartment buildings in Bordeaux, France, for AQUITANIS, the home public office of Bordeaux Métropole. The Grand Parc Bordeaux project added 4-meter deep "winter gardens" to the facades of the social housing buildings dating to the 1960s. Completed in 2017, the transformation cost 50,000€ per dwelling and was done without any residents being displaced during construction nor with any rent increases. The project also consisted of a rooftop addition providing more apartments.

The housing blocks before renovation (Photo: Philippe Ruault)

Today's announcement came two months after five finalists were announced for the 2019 Prize and the jury subsequently visited each building in person. The jury was chaired by Dorte Mandrup and consisted of George Arbid, Angelika Fitz, Ștefan Ghenciulescu, Kamiel Klaasse, María Langarita and Frank McDonald.

A winter garden (Photo: Philippe Ruault)
Jury comments:

The Jury valued that the project challenges the existing European housing stock from the post war period, using minimum means to achieve a maximum effect. Instead of demolishing, which involves the use of an important amount of energy, in this case the client understood and supported the advantages of transforming the existing three buildings. This has changed people’s lives for the better without underestimating their previous lives, filling the new volume with poetry because it works with the basis that people understand space and in consequence, they use it in very different ways.

Looking toward the winter garden from inside an apartment (Photo: Philippe Ruault)
Jury comments, cont'd:

At a moment in which the commissions for new social housing blocks ask for a reduction of the surface of flats, here the volume is increased, offering dignity and giving more value to the individual and to the collective. The ensemble becomes an optimistic opportunity for social housing and modernity, being generous and also changing architecture and the possibilities of architecture. The architects show a very high acknowledgement of who – a mix of inhabitants – and what – the results from previous research on transformation – they are working with. This results in a refined way of working with people, space and materials although the improvement in the collective could have been stronger if the opportunities in the relationship with the street would have been different.

The rooftop addition (Photo: Philippe Ruault)

Transformation of 530 Dwellings - Grand Parc Bordeaux is the second time a housing project has received the EU Mies Award. It follows the 2017 winner, DeFlat Kleiburg, the renovation of one of the largest apartment buildings in the Netherlands.

Emerging Architecture Prize

Photo: BAST

The 2019 Emerging Architecture prize has been awarded Toulouse, France's BAST for the School Refectory in Montbrun-Bocage, Haute-Garonne. Designed for the commune of Montbrun-Bocage, the canteen extends the existing school for 61 pupils and defines a courtyard, while still allowing views of the surroundings.

The jury was "drawn by the extremely precise implementation and design decisions which make the refectory a remarkable project built on a relatively small budget. The work was done with extreme humbleness, taking into account the context of the village and the immediate landscape, thereby creating a very respectful work of architecture."

The awards ceremony will take place on May 7 at the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion in Barcelona, which will be celebrated as EU Mies Award Day.

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