Lacaton and Vassal: “Pleasure of living”

Anne Lacaton and Jean Philippe Vassal, winners of the Pritzker Architecture Prize 2021, affirm the need to defend the pleasure of living, understood as a political act: it is a necessity, a problem that must be addressed at the same level as an environmental priority.

This article was originally published in Domus 1051, November 2020.

The double crisis we are experiencing, both environmental and social, raises fundamental questions about the importance of housing, but it does not reveal them. Although some people are discovering these issues, we have always openly supported them through our projects.

Defending the pleasure of living seems eminently political to us today. It is a need that must be treated on the same level as an environmental priority.

Space is a common good, just like the sun, air or light. It is a vital material. As architects, we must all approach it as such. However, contemporary materialist and capitalist thinking, which encourages the conception of housing as an efficient financial product, has completely evacuated the dimension of the pleasure of living. And it’s only since we’ve all been confined that we’ve recognised its necessity.

Nonetheless, there are solid foundations in the history of modern architecture for this idea of housing based on spatial generosity, freedom of plan and structural lightness. These are essential starting points for a possible social and collective life. If they hadn’t been forgotten, perhaps architects today wouldn’t think they’ve failed in something when noting the lack of quality in our living spaces. Is it still possible to think of generous, economical and reproducible housing as the heart of a national programme? We hope so, and we believe there is no argument for not doing so.

As a continuation of this introduction, the following are some fragments of thoughts accompanied by images expressing the pleasure of living. They portray sequences of inhabiting, taken from the film Constructing Escape, directed by Karine Dana as part of a commission for the Frac Centre-Val de Loire, France.

Defending the pleasure of living seems eminently political to us today

Create the escape

For every project, we bear in mind the idea of escape. Creating escape situations also means fabricating possibilities, projects within the project. It’s about placing the inhabitant in a situation of creation. The opposite of a framing situation. It’s about constructing this non-frame.

How to withdraw from the real, to always be able to get out? Constantly holding onto the idea that we can be free, the idea of an elsewhere, the idea of a dream.

How to trigger the imaginary? We always seek to build a space that makes nothing subject to it, that is nothing but pure freedom. Some may grasp this freedom and others might not. But it is given all the same.
We are always optimistic about what can happen. We trust in the usage and inventiveness of people to produce escape situations.


Beyond the functional, inhabiting conveys pleasure, generosity, the freedom to occupy a space. Dwellings must offer freedoms of usage, to generate possibilities for evolution, for interpretation and appropriation, providing as much extra space as programmed space, free for use, to promote relationships, to bring about pleasurable situations.

Every dwelling must have a private outside space, such as a balcony,
a terrace, a winter garden, to allow the possibility of living outside, to move around, to be inside-outside. Any dwelling should have the same qualities as a “villa”.

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